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Guatemalan court overturns former dictator's genocide conviction

Guatemala's constitutional court overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, throwing out all proceedings in his case since a dispute broke out last month over who should hear it.

Efrain Rios Montt in the Supreme Court of Justice during his trial in March. Credit: Reuters

Rios Montt was found guilty on 10th May of overseeing the deliberate killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

But the constitutional court said it had thrown out all proceedings in the case dating back until 19th April. It was then that the trial against Rios Montt was suspended after a spat between judges over who should take the case.

Who is Efrain Rios Montt?

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt has been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the country's bloody civil war.

It is the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in their own country.

  • Rios Montt seized power in a 1982 coup and ruled until he was overthrown just over a year later.
  • His period in power was the bloodiest of the country's 36-year civil war.
  • Accused of implementing a scorched-earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers.
  • Returned to the political limelight when he ran for president in 2003, and again in 2006.
  • Was back in public office in 2007 as a member of Congress, which secured him immunity from prosecution over war crimes allegations.
  • Immunity expired with the end of his term in office in January 2012.
  • Within weeks, he was summoned to court before being tried over the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, in what Amnesty International hailed as the trial of the decade.

Former Guatemalan dictator receives 80 year sentence

Hundreds of people packed into the courtroom burst into applause, chanting, "Justice!" as Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt received a 50-year term for the genocide charge and an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors said he ignored soldiers who raped and tortured

Rios Montt, now 86, took power after a coup in 1982 and was accused of implementing a scorched-earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers thought to be helping leftist rebels.

He proclaimed his innocence in court.

I feel happy. May no one else ever have to go through what I did. My community has been sad ever since this happened.

– Elena de Paz, an ethnic Maya Ixil who was two years old in 1983 when soldiers stormed her village, killed her parents and burned her home.

His 1982-1983 rule was the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as 250,000 people died.

He was tried over the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, just a fraction of the number who died during his rule.

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Former Guatemalan dictator found guilty of genocide

A Guatemalan court has found former dictator Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest phase of a 36-year civil war.

It was the first time a former head of state has been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt during his genocide trial. Credit: REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Rios Montt, 86, took power after a coup in 1982, and is accused of implementing a scorched earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers.

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