Former Guatemalan Dictator to Face Charges of Genocide
By SONJA DECHIAN | Published: FEBRUARY 1, 2012
A judge has found there is sufficient evidence to try former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide. It’s the first time a Latin American court has charged former president with genocide.
Rios Montt took power in 1982-83 after a military coup. He is accused of 266 incidents that resulted in 1,771 deaths, 1,400 human rights violations and the displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans. The conflict left more than 200,000 dead and missing, 93 percent of them by state forces and paramilitary groups, according to a U.N. report. Hundreds of Mayan villages were destroyed.
Judge Carol Flores said Ríos Montt should stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity and ordered he be placed under house arrest. ‘Unfortunately there are cases like this where people have been waiting 29 years for justice,’ she said during the testimony. Rios Montt refused to testify.
Rios Montt’s defense lawyer now says the judge violated his client’s due process when she charged him with genocide. According to lawyer Danilo Rodriguez Galvez, Judge Carol Patricia Flores lectured Rios Montt for an hour on the allegations, citing witness testimony, before issuing her decision. He said her conduct resembled a conviction and plans to file a formal complaint.