Trial begins for Guatemala’s ex-dictator, Efraín Rios Montt


Contributor: Jessica Hredzak

Guatemala’s 36-year long civil war has been over since 1996 but justice has yet been given to all those who committed war crimes during this brutal battle for power. On March 19, in the world’s first-ever national prosecution of an ex-head-of-state for crimes against humanity, Efraín Rios Montt, Guatemalan dictator from 1982-1983, faces charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity in Guatemala’s national court. His rule saw some of the most brutal atrocities of the civil war. According to the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission in 1999, Montt is accused of sending soldiers into hundreds of Mayan villages to rape, torture, and kill more than 1,700 Mayans in an effort to quell opposition forces through elimination of the indigenous population. Montt evaded these charges for years, because he served in Guatemala’s Congress, where public officials are granted immunity by law. Montt denies the charges, and in his favor, prosecutors cannot directly prove that Montt commanded these atrocities. With time, hundreds of witnesses, and mounting evidence, prosecutors aim to prove that there was an established chain of command for such orders.


Sources and Further Reading:

§  PBS – Timeline: Guatemala’s Brutal Civil War

§  New York Times – Ex-Dictator Is Ordered to Trial in Guatemalan War Crimes Case

§  Panoramas, University of Pittsburgh – Guatemalan ex-leader trial begins

§  BBC – Guatemala ex-ruler Rios Montt on trial for genocide

§  Reuters – Guatemala tries ex-dictator Rios Montt in landmark case

Other News Stories of Interest: (Links to other important issues from the past week)

§  Aljazeera – ‘Executed’ Mexicans displayed on chairs

§  CNN – Venezuela cutting off contact with U.S. diplomat, foreign minister says