International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Rios Montt Could be Declared Unfit to Stand Trial

Earlier today, Guatemala’s National Forensic Institute declared former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt senile, only two weeks before the scheduled date of his retrial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the former head of state’s conviction in 2013, only days after the verdict, requiring a retrial which has faced repeated obstacles. A retrial is now scheduled for July 23.

The National Forensic Institute reported today that Rios Montt’s mental health has degenerated to such a degree that he is unable to understand the charges to be presented against him and could not follow a trial or judicial proceedings. Further, the report asserts that due to his age, Rios Montt’s condition is unlikely to improve and further evaluation is thus unnecessary.

Rios … Continue Reading

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Closing the Verification Gap

This blog is a part of International Justice Monitor’s technology for truth series, which focuses on the use of technology for evidence and features views from key proponents in the field.

Technological advances have created unprecedented opportunities to collect and report information on human rights abuses, even in the most remote areas of the globe.  This trend will only continue as new satellite systems come online, communication infrastructure is strengthened, and smart phones outnumber feature phones.  Technology has not only improved the fact-finding ability of human rights defenders and journalists, but also has put the power to gather data in the hands of ordinary citizens.

The potential value of this citizen-captured information, or user generated content (UGC), as evidence for holding the … Continue Reading

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Guatemalan President Could Face Impeachment While Uncertainty Continues to Surround Genocide Trial

Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina is again on the verge of facing prosecution in connection with recent corruption scandals that have shaken the country. A prior decision from the country’s highest court would have spared him. However, the Constitutional Court’s decision last week reinstated a congressional committee that recommended the president’s immunity be removed.

Last Wednesday, a majority of the Constitutional Court annulled its June 18 decision, which at the time interrupted the work of an investigative committee convened by Guatemala’s Congress. Following the court’s decision, Congress appointed a new member of the investigative committee, Salvador Baldizon, after the prior head had resigned, facing his own corruption allegations.

By Friday, the investigative committee had released its report, which concluded that the president … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda Trial Opening Pushed to September

The trial of Bosco Ntaganda, which was earlier scheduled to open at the International Criminal Court (ICC) next week, has been postponed to September 2.

In a status conference this afternoon, trial judges delayed the opening statements and the testimony of the first prosecution witness, following a last minute request for adjournment filed by the defense.

According to a statement from the court, in deciding on the defense’s motion, judges took into account that the prosecution did not oppose the request by Mr. Ntaganda’s lawyers and also had regard to their obligations under the Rome Statute to ensure the fairness of the trial and the rights of the accused.

In the June 29, 2015 appeal for postponement, defense lawyer Stéphane Bourgon argued that … Continue Reading

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Ntaganda’s Lawyers Seek Last-Minute Postponement of Trial

With a week to the opening of Bosco Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), his lawyers have made a last-minute appeal to judges to delay the trial. They said “prevailing circumstances” make it impossible for the proceedings against the former Congolese military leader to be fair.

In a June 29, 2015 submission, Stéphane Bourgon, the lead defense lawyer, stated that the defense was not ready to make an opening statement next week or to conduct cross-examinations of the first prosecution witnesses expected to take the stand at the end of August.

The filing was heavily redacted, making it difficult to establish the precise reasons why the defense was requesting the postponement at this late hour. The defense argued that it … Continue Reading

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Appeals Court Rejects Travel Ban Imposed on Genocide Prosecutor

On Friday, an appeals court unanimously rejected a travel ban which had been imposed on the lead prosecutor in the 2013 genocide trial of former Guatemalan head of state Efraín Ríos Montt.

Prosecutor Orlando Lopez had not been indicted and did not face any criminal charges, yet Judge Darwin Porras had imposed a travel ban (arraigo) against him on April 13. Such actions are taken to prevent the risk of flight from the country during an investigation, though Judge Porras had not sought any evidence that the prosecutor was a flight risk.

The flight ban had been in response to a February 22 criminal complaint by Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, son of former Rios Montt’s interior minister and current president of the Guatemalan … Continue Reading

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Rios Montt Prosecutor Challenges Travel Ban

Yesterday, a Guatemalan appeals court considered whether the lead prosecutor in Guatemala’s historic genocide trial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt could be reprimanded for statements he made out of court.

Prosecutor Orlando López has not been indicted, and he does not face any criminal charges. However, in an April 13 hearing, a judge imposed a travel ban for the duration of a criminal investigation into statements López made at a public event. The case is being watched as an important test of prosecutorial and judicial independence in Guatemala.

Neither López nor a prosecutor from the Public Ministry’s Internal Affairs Unit were allowed to participate in the April 13 hearing. Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, son of Rios Montt’s former interior minister and president of Guatemala’s … Continue Reading

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Ruto and Sang Lawyers Say Prosecution Needs to Prove Beyond Reasonable Doubt Allegations of Witness Interference

Defense lawyers have argued the prosecution needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt allegations of witness bribery and intimidation before the International Criminal Court (ICC) can consider whether to admit some witness statements as evidence against Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Lawyers for Ruto and Sang made the arguments during a status conference on Thursday. Trial Chamber V(a) convened the conference to hear submissions on a prosecution application requesting the judges to admit as evidence against Ruto and Sang statements by witnesses who failed to testify in court or were declared hostile by the trial chamber.

The prosecution wants the chamber to consider admitting the statements of as many as 16 witnesses because they were the target of “a scheme” … Continue Reading


ICC Judges to Consider Reducing Lubanga’s Jail Term

Next month, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will conduct a review to determine whether to reduce the 14-year prison sentence handed down to Thomas Lubanga for using child soldiers in armed conflict.

The review is pursuant to Article 110(3) of the court’s Rome Statute, which provides that when a convicted person has served two thirds of their sentence, the court “shall review the sentence to determine whether it should be reduced.”

In March 2012, Trial Chamber I convicted Mr. Lubanga of recruiting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and actively using them in an armed conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during 2002 and 2003.

Judges sentenced the former leader of the … Continue Reading

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Guatemala Transitional Justice Update: Rios Montt Challenges July Retrial and Fourth Police Official Arrested for 1991 Political Assassination


Former head of state Efraín Rios Montt sought to prevent a new trial scheduled for July 23 after his 2013 conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity was annulled on a technicality.
The former head of the National Police’s criminal investigation unit was arrested in relation with the 1991 killing of police investigator José Mérida Escobar in retaliation for his testimony about the political assassination of anthropologist Myrna Mack. Martin Alejandro Garcia is now the fourth police official arrested and awaiting trial in connection with the case.
An investigative judge accepted the introduction of most of the evidence in a case challenging 1980s sexual violence in the Sepur Zarco military installation, marking the last stage before a trial date can be set.
Guatemala’s … Continue Reading

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