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Court Overturns Genocide Conviction for Guatemalan Dictator

General Efrain Rios Montt wins appeal as nation's high court orders retrial for man guilty of massacres during civil war

Common Dreams staff

Jose Efrain Rios Montt wears headphones as he listens to the verdict in his genocide trial in Guatemala City (AP/Luis Soto)

Former leader of Guatemala, General Efrain Rios Montt, who was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity earlier this month has won a legal appeal in the nation's high court and a new trial has been ordered.

The ruling comes less than two weeks after Montt's conviction by a criminal tribunal which declared that Montt was responsible for the massacre of nearly 2,000 Ixil Mayans during the civil war that gripped the nation in the 1980s.

The decision will be seen as a setback for human rights advocates who welcomed Montt's conviction, though it remains unclear if new proceedings are likely to change the ultimate verdict in the case.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Constitutional Court said the landmark trial of Rios Montt should have been halted and rewound to an earlier date because of a jurisdictional dispute, Guatemala’s Prensa Libre reported on its website. The ruling suggested that Rios Montt would be retried or that parts of the trial, which contained graphic and chilling testimony from victims, would be redone.

A three-judge panel convicted Rios Montt, 86, on May 10 of genocide in the slaughter of more than 1,700 Ixil Maya in the early 1980s, some of the bloodiest years of Guatemala’s long civil war and the period during which he served as de facto president of the country.

Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but that sentence was vacated in the Monday ruling. The conviction had represented a rare prosecution of a former leader on human rights atrocities by a court of his own nation.


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