WASHINGTON — The top court in the Guatemalan judicial system has overturned the conviction of their former dictator, Efrain Rios Montt, for genocide (per Associated Press).
The Constitutional Court said that the genocide trial must revert to the middle of the proceedings, with court secretary Martin Guzman stating that the trial needs to go back to its April 19th proceedings to take care of several appeal issues.
This outlines the poor state of the judiciary in Latin American countries like Guatemala, where sometimes rule of law and judicial proceedings are haphazardly enforced or ignored. The conviction of Montt on charges of genocide had been hailed as revolutionary up until this point in time.
A three-judge panel had decided 10 days earlier that Montt, who is now 86 years old, committed crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacring Mayans during Guatemala’s 36-year-0ld civil war. Testimonies during the trial showed that Montt knew of the massacre of about 1,771 Ixil Mayans in the western Guatemalan highlands and did nothing to stop it.
He was sentenced to 80 years in prison. The conviction, before it was overturned, was the first time that a former Latin American dictator had been convicted of such crimes within his own home country and it was Guatemala’s first public acknowledgement of the genocide which occurred during the long civil war.
Current president, retired General Otto Perez Molina, denied that any genocide happened during the war.
The appeals problems were that Montt’s lawyers filed an appeal, which was ignored by the courts.