A Guatemalan judge on Jan. 28 ordered former dictator Efrain Rios Montt to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the killing of more than 1,700 villagers of Mayan ancestry. Judge Miguel Angel Galvez announced that Montt, along with one of his former generals Jose Rodríguez Sánchez, must answer for the alleged crimes committed during Montt’s reign as de facto head of state in the early 1980s. Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco called the order “a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past atrocities has long been the norm,” and welcomed this step toward greater accountability in Guatemala. Montt is the first ex-head of state to be charged with genocide by a Latin American court.
The 36-year Guatemalan civil war resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, mostly among Guatemala’s large indigenous Mayan population. According to a UN report released in 1999, the military was responsible for 95 percent of those deaths.
From Jurist, Jan. 29. Used with permission.