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Guatemala: Rios Montt Convicted of Genocide
Human Rights Watch
10 May 2013
The guilty verdict against Efraín Ríos Montt, former leader of Guatemala, for genocide and crimes against humanity is an unprecedented step toward establishing accountability for atrocities during the country’s brutal civil war.
“The conviction of Rios Montt sends a powerful message to Guatemala and the world that nobody, not even a former head of state, is above the law when it comes to committing genocide,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Without the persistence and bravery of each participant in this effort – the victims, prosecutors, judges, and civil society organizations – this landmark decision would have been inconceivable.”
Rios Montt was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the crime of genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity in a sentence that was handed down on May 10, 2013 by Judge Yassmin Barrios in Guatemala City. In her decision, Barrios said Rios Montt was fully aware of plans to exterminate the indigenous Ixil population carried out by security forces under his command. (…)
The trial was based on complaints filed by victims in 2000 and 2001. During the trial, nearly 100 witnesses offered harrowing testimony of mass murder, torture, and rape by security forces under Rios Montt’s rule. The prosecution also presented expert witnesses to testify about the military chain of command and links to Ríos Montt. (…)
Legal challenges have a crucial role in protecting the rights of defendants, victims and others. However, in at least two cases against Guatemala, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has criticized the “abusive use of the appeal [for legal protection, or amparo] as a delaying practice” to prevent human rights prosecutions. “The right to effective judicial protection … requires that the judges direct the proceeding in such a way as to avoid undue delays and obstructions that lead to impunity, thus frustrating due judicial protection of human rights.”
While the defendant’s right to appeal must be respected, the court should not permit baseless legal challenges aimed at delaying or obstructing the judicial process, Human Rights Watch said. (…)



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