The New York Times Editorial Board: "The United States, which supported [General Ríos Montt] and his regime during the war and apologized for that in 1999, provides aid for the justice system. It should urge that the case be pursued through an independent process. It would be a travesty if a mishandled legal proceeding were to deny victims justice now." — Xeni
Ríos Montt's attorney Francisco García Gudiel (whom critics in Guatemala sometimes refer to as an "abogangster") says the trial must restart: "You have to cancel the whole process and begin a new trial with new judges."
Here's info on two special events in NYC and DC with visiting speakers from Guatemala talking about human rights accountability in Guatemala, where the historic genocide trial of former US-backed military dictator Ríos Montt has just been overturned. Both events are free of charge, but you need to RSVP.
"I'm distressed. I don't know what's happening. That's how this country is. The powerful people do what they want and we poor and indigenous are devalued. We don't get justice. Justice means nothing for us."— Ana Caba, an Ixil Maya survivor of Guatemala's 36-year internal armed conflict.
May 9, 2013: A public art project in Guatemala City, one block from the courth where Rios Montt was convicted on May 10. "Si hubo genocidio," the sign reads. "Yes, it was genocide." Photo: Xeni Jardin.
As reported last night, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala has effectively tossed out the final phase of the genocide trial of José Efraín Rios Montt. The former US-backed military dictator had been sentenced by another Guatemalan high court just 10 days ago to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity, but pressure from the defense team and from the country's deeply conservative oligarchy and ex-military sector led to a historic reversal in what was already a historic trial. It seems likely now that the man who, on May 10, was declared guilty in the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Maya and the mass rapes by Army soldiers of countless indigenous women will be allowed to go free.
What happens with the case here is unclear. Ríos Montt will likely be released today, but many involved with the prosecution (as well as press and international observers) have already fled the country under threats from those who sought to overturn the trial. Justice in Guatemala has a long way to go.
Here are PDF archives of relevant documents in the case, for those who would like to study the courts' rulings and try and understand for themselves.
Ríos Montt testifying in his defense in Guatemala City, May 2013. Photo: Xeni Jardin.
Late-breaking news from Guatemala City: Impunity reigns in Guatemala tonight.
The Constitutional Court, the highest court in Guatemala (like the US Supreme Court), has just voted to annul the proceedings in the Rios Montt genocide trial from April 19th onward. That was the date on which the trial was temporarily suspended, when defense attorneys initiated a conflict between courts over which judge should oversee the case.
On May 10, Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 80 years in prison. That verdict and sentence were today thrown out by the Constitutional Court.
Three Constitutional Court judges voted in favor of the annulment. Two voted against. The court today also upheld the not-guilty verdict in the case of Rios Montt's former head of intelligence (the director of the notorious G-2 unit), José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez.
It’s too soon to declare victory in Guatemala, writes anthropologist Victoria Sanford in a New York Times op-ed today. "There is serious evidence that the current president, the former military commander Otto Pérez Molina, who took office in January 2012, may have been involved in the same mass killings for which General Ríos Montt has now been convicted." And, what's more: rumors circulating in Guatemala today that the Constitutional Court, the nation's highest legal body, may throw out the verdict. News is expected Wednesday mid-day Guatemala time. — Xeni
Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt (center, in headphones) awaits the verdict of his trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Photo: mimundo.org
Former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity today at his trial in Guatemala City. He was immediately sentenced to 50 years imprisonment on the genocide charge, with an additional 30 years on the charge of crimes against humanity.
"The damage incurred is irreperable," said Judge Jazmin Barrios, reading the court's verdict to a packed courtroom. "As de facto president, it is logical that he had full knowledge of what was happening and he did nothing to stop it."