Genocide trial begins in Guatemala, for US-trained former dictator Rios Montt

Efraín Ríos Montt. Photo: James Rodriguez.

José Efraín Ríos Montt, a former de facto dictator of Guatemala who trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is on trial for genocide.

Photojournalist James Rodriguez covered the first day of this historic trial against Ríos Montt and former Intelligence Director José Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, who are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity during Guatemala's 36-year civil war. The Ixil ethnic group of the country's Mayan population were one of the army's primary targets during the conflict, which left some 200,000 dead and tens of thousands "disappeared."

It's a shame none of the American forces that trained Ríos Montt and his regime, and helped prop them up to power, will ever be brought to justice. Once upon a time, he was our guy.

Ríos Montt's defense team has "rejected charges he allowed the slaughter of civilians in Guatemala's civil war, as his country became the world's first to prosecute an ex-head of state for genocide and crimes against humanity." [Reuters]

View photos from day 1 of the trial, by James Rodriguez. []

Maya women attending Ríos Montt's trial. Photo: James Rodriguez.

In the New York Times' piece on the beginning of this historic trial 30 years after Ríos Montt's crimes, survivor Tiburcio Utuy says he thought he saw fear cross Ríos Montt's face during an earlier court ruling. "He won't suffer the same way we suffered — but he will be scared. And maybe he will spend a little bit of time in prison."

The Washington Post reports that "Moments before the trial began, Rios Montt's legal team quit and was replaced by a new attorney, who filed a series of unsuccessful motions attempting to block the trial on procedural grounds."

NPR's Carrie Kahn is covering the trial from Guatemala City. Listen to her report on the dramatic testimony given yesterday in court, by victims and their families.