Unlikely progress for Ríos Montt's prosecution in Guatemala

09 February 2015 by Stephanie van den Berg

The trial of ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt [IJT-153] resumed last month in Guatemala after his 2013 genocide conviction was annulled on a technicality. The trial was set back to where it left off on 19 April 2013, when the tribunal had heard all prosecution witnesses but still needed to hear some defence witnesses and closing arguments. But just a few days after restarting, the trial ground to a halt again and was quickly suspended with no outlook on when it could resume.

Ex-dictator General Efrain Rios testifying during his trial in Guatemala (Photo: Flickr/Elena Hermosa/trocaire)
Image caption: 
Ex-dictator General Efrain Rios testifying during his trial in Guatemala (Photo: Flickr/Elena Hermosa/trocaire)

IJT spoke to Mike Allison, a Guatemala observer and professor of political science at the University of Scranton. He runs the blog Central American Politics and has been following the Ríos Montt case closely.

Ríos Montt stands accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for killing nearly 2,000 indigenous people during the height of the country's civil war that pitted the army against guerrilla groups. But where are we now in the case?

Mike Allison (MA): The defence initially said Ríos Montt couldn't attend the trial because he was too sick. The judges did not accept that. They forced him to come to court and he arrived within an hour. The defence then filed a motion to have one of the justices recused because her Master's thesis had dealt with the Guatemalan genocide. Justice Jeannette Valdez denied it would influence how she heard the case, but the two other judges agreed she should step down.

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