Guatemala: court begins to untangle genocide trial standstill

Miguel Salay and Mariano Castillo have a solid update up for on the confusing status of the genocide trial currently on hold here in Guatemala:
A week ago, the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt appeared headed to a historic conclusion. Today, it is at a standstill, the result of procedural missteps that have cast uncertainty over the process. The country's Constitutional Court on Tuesday began to answer some of the legal questions that are holding up the trial. But the biggest one -- whether the trial proceedings will be annulled -- remains to be clarified.

Read the rest at

And more in our Boing Boing archives of my trial coverage from Guatemala.


    1. I don’t know enough about such matters to answer yes or no, but it does seem like the biggest stumbling block there would be actually getting him extradited.  I’m sure if he can get out of his current fix he can easily avoid being extradited.

      Too bad there’s no money in getting him put away. If there was we’d see an American campaign to kidnap and convict him so fast it’d make your head spin.

    2. In theory, yes. Guatemala ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in April of last year and their accession to it went into effect in July of last year. This means that, if the ICC agreed to hear the case, a Guatemalan national could be tried for genocide.

      However, Article 63 of Rome Statute requires the defendant to be present, so he could not be tried in abstentia, which raises the issue of extradition. The treaty requires signatories to extradite defendants only if it does not conflict with that nation’s own laws or other treaty obligations. If this current trial continues, whether it finds for or against Montt, the Guatemalan government could very well argue that their own court had settled the matter and that they had no legal obligation to extradite. As the ICC has no police force nor is it legally empowered to capture defendants on its own, it is unlikely it could or would go against the Guatemalan verdict.To preempt another elephant in the room, the ICC does not, even under its own law (the Rome Statute) enjoy universal jurisdiction. It’s jurisdiction is limited to the States that have either ratified or acceded to it. This is largely because attempts by signatory States to arrest and try non-signatory States could be interpreted as an act of war against a sovereign nation. Since the US government is not signatory to the Rome Statute, it’s leaders, present or former cannot be tried in the ICC.

  1. The trial was nearing closing arguments when Flores put the brakes on it with her ruling on the invalidity of the testimony.

    What is one to make of this mess at such an advanced stage of the trial?  “Procedural missteps” can only stand for incompetence, corruption or both.

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