With the events of recent weeks – the May 20 Constitutional Court decision to undo the guilty verdict in the Rios Montt trial and the new trial court’s expressed unavailability until April 2014 – it seems that continued legal proceedings against Rios Montt in the Ixil genocide trial will be in the best of scenarios on hold. However, there have been further developments in connection with another set of charges against former Guatemalan de facto president Efraín Rios Montt.
From 2-5 Eastern time today in Washington, DC, I will be among the moderators at a special event at the New America Foundation, "Genocide in Our Hemisphere: Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala Beyond the Conviction of General Ríos Montt."
You can watch live online, the event will be streamed here.
Featured speakers at the event include scholars, massacre survivors, and people who were directly involved in the genocide trial of Ríos Montt, which ended with a guilty verdict on May 10, only to be thrown out ten days later in an unprecedented move by Guatemala's Constitutional Court.
On Wednesday, May 29, I will be among the moderators at a very special event in Washington, DC at the New America Foundation, "Genocide in Our Hemisphere: Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala Beyond the Conviction of General Ríos Montt." Featured speakers at the event include scholars, massacre survivors, and people who were directly involved in the genocide trial of Ríos Montt, which ended with a guilty verdict on May 10, only to be thrown out ten days later in an unprecedented move by Guatemala's Constitutional Court.
Photos: Throughout Latin America, protests demand justice for Guatemala after genocide trial overturned
Protesters in Guatemala and other Latin American countries gathered on Friday to denounce the Guatemalan Constitutional Court's recent decision to overturn the genocide trial and guilty verdict of Ríos Montt. About 1,500 people, mostly indigenous Maya from Guatemala, gathered in Guatemala City. They marched along what posters described as the "Route of Impunity," from the Supreme Court where the ex-General was convicted on May 10 and sentenced to 80 years in jail, to the Constutional Court which threw out the trial ten days later.
Photos from the Guatemala City march below, along with images from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico, which were among the other countries where protests took place. Also below, snapshots from a pro-Ríos Montt protest that took place today in a suburb of Guatemala City: about 15 people gathered to denounce Communism and terrorism, and chant that "In Guatemala, there was no genocide."
Guatemala: protests condemn annulment of Rios Montt trial, while ex-president Portillo extradited to US
In Guatemala City and throughout Latin America today, protests are taking place to condemn the Guatemalan Constitutional Court's decision this week to effectively throw out the trial of Ríos Montt.
On May 10, the former US-backed general was found guilty, and sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity. But just ten days later, the historic trial was overturned when the nation's highest court voted 3-2 to uphold complaints put forth by Rios Montt's attorneys.
The protests happen on the same day that another disgraced former Guatemalan president, Alfonso Portillo, is being extradited to the United States where he will face trial in a Manhattan court on US money laundering charges, filed against him in 2010.
The former president is accused of using financial institutions in the United States to launder more than $70 million.
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In Guatemala today, confusion and concern around what will become of the historic trial that found former US-backed military dictator Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Just 10 days after that trial ended in an 80-year prison sentence for the former general, the nation's Constitutional Court this week overturned the trial and threw out the verdict. Background here and documents here, in previous Boing Boing posts.
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."
Without saying it, they threw out everything," plaintiff and human rights attorney Hector Reyes told Reuters. "There is no appeals process for their decision."
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Guatemala: Archive of documents from Rios Montt genocide trial, overturned 10 days after guilty verdict
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.
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.
At the Open Society Justice Initiative's riosmontt-trial.org blog, a good synopsis of the post-genocide-trial verdict legal hijinks in Guatemala. Snip:
Before leaving Guatemala today, I spoke with PBS NewsHour host Hari Sreenivasan about the aftermath and significance of Friday's court decision to convict former US-backed military dictator Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Related: My reporter's notebook on NewsHour from Guatemala, and a full report on the trial I produced with Miles O'Brien.
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