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Guatemala: Rios Montt trial ultimate test for justice system

The trial of Guatemala’s former military ruler, José  Efraín Ríos Montt, due to start on Monday (11 January), will be a major test for the country’s justice system and a huge opportunity for Guatemala to show it is committed to human rights, said Amnesty International today.

Ríos Montt is charged with crimes against humanity and genocide during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war (1960-1996). The charges relate to the killing and torture of 1,771 Mayan-Ixil Indigenous people and the forced displacement of tens of thousands when he was President and Commander-in-Chief of the Guatemalan Army between 1982 and 1983.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

“Tens of thousands of Guatemalans who fell victim to the heinous crimes committed under Ríos Montt’s rule have been waiting three decades to see justice done – they must not be forced to wait one second longer.

“The Guatemalan ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach when it comes to dealing with the hundreds of thousands of cases of torture, killings and disappearances that took place during the country’s civil war is shameful and illegal. The only deterrent to the perpetrators of crimes like these is the clear knowledge that they will face justice and the full might of the law.”


Ríos Montt will be represented by a third party in the special closed-door criminal proceedings that will begin on Monday. The court is not empowered to hand down a prison sentence, owing to the 89-year-old defendant’s poor health.

A 2013 conviction against Ríos Montt was overturned by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court 10 days after it was issued on procedural issues.

A UN-backed truth commission found that some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared durin the civil war. More than 80% were Indigenous Maya.

Amnesty International’s experts are available for interviews in English and Spanish on the human rights situation in Guatemala and the legal case against Efraín Ríos Montt.

Read more:

Guatemala: Court ruling on Ríos Montt’s case highlights flaws in justice system (News, 25 August 2015) 

The two Guatemalas of Ríos Montt (Feature, 22 November 2012)

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