Rios Montt convicted of genocide – and then the verdict is overturned

We have been following the Rios Montt trial in Guatemala because of the connection between the 1980s Central American State Terror and the origins of liberation psychology.  Psychologists also testified to the psychological and social trauma occasioned by the genocidal action against the indigenous population by the Guatemalan military.   While I’ve been away Rios Montt was found guilty and then the judgement was overturned (pending further court proceedings) by Guatemala’s constitutional court.   The following is from the trial website where you can also read the full report and find background material.  See also this report and this film.

“Only ten days after a trial court issued its historic verdict convicting Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentencing him to prison for 80 years, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, in a 3-2 ruling, overturned the verdict and set the trial back to where it was April 19. This verdict had been the first genocide conviction of a former head of state in a domestic, rather than international, court.

Rios Montt was convicted for crimes committed against Guatemala’s Maya Ixil indigenous population during his 17-month de facto rule in 1982 and 1983 following a military coup. On Friday, May 17, the trial court (Tribunal Primero de Sentencia Penal, Narcoactividad y Delitos contra el Ambiente de Mayor Riesgo “A”) released its final 718-page judgment, describing in detail the foundation for Rios Montt’s conviction.

During the course of the trial, more than 90 witnesses testified of indiscriminate massacres, rape and sexual violence against women, infanticide, the destruction of crops to induce starvation, the abduction of children, and the forcible displacement and relocation of surviving populations into militarized “model villages”. Experts also provided forensic, military, sociological and other testimony and analysis.

The verdict came 30 years after the crimes and 13 years after the complaint was brought by survivors to the Public Ministry for investigation and prosecution.

The Constitutional Court, in its judgment on Monday, overturned the verdict and annulled the final days of the trial—sending the trial back to where it was on April 19. (On April 19, the tribunal had heard all prosecution witnesses, but still awaited the presentation of some of the defense witnesses, closing arguments and, of course, the final verdict and sentence.) The Constitutional Court also ordered the official suspension of the trial pending the full resolution of certain legal challenges raised by the defense. … READ MORE on the trial website.


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