International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Open Society Justice Initiative Welcomes Conclusion of Historic Rios Montt Trial

The Open Society Justice Initiative welcomed the conclusion on of the trial of Efrain Rios Montt, the former de facto president of Guatemala. The trial ended on Friday with theconviction of Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The charges against Rios Montt and his co-accused Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, then head of military intelligence, were based on massacres, forced displacement, torture, rape and sexual assault perpetratedagainst Guatemala’s Mayan Ixil communities in 1982 and 1983, at the height of the country’s bloody internal armed conflict when Rios Montt was president as a result of a coup.

Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison by the three judge panel.

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said:

“I welcome this historic verdict. This court in Guatemala has shown that local justice can hold even the most senior political leaders responsible for the gravest international crimes, despite the considerable political challenges that such prosecutions can face.”

Rodriguez Sanchez was found not guilty of all charges on the ground that he did not have command responsibility.

The trial marks the first time a former head of state has been prosecuted for genocide in a domestic, rather than an international, court.

The Justice Initiative  urged all concerned to respect the verdict and sentence of the court, and to adhere to due process by addressing all outstanding procedural challenges through the appropriate judicial channels.

The organization also congratulated the Guatemalan government on ensuring the peaceful conduct of the trial, which was conducted in a highly charged political atmosphere, and urged continued attention to the security of all those associated with the trial process, including judges, lawyers, witnesses and human rights defenders.

2 Comments
  1. What a remarkable conclusion, in many ways this conviction is also and indictment of US policies all over Latin America. I was born in Nicaragua in the mid-sixties so I know first hand how brutal these dictators are. My country suffered decades of US backed rule under the Somoza dynasty. These dictators were all able to rule with an iron hand and with impunity, all in the name of stopping communism from spreading in our hemisphere. Rios Montt got what he deserved and there is finally some justice for those who died and those who survived his reign of terror. I wonder what Ronald Reagan would say about all this if he were still alive, would he still stand by his good friend?

  2. it was in Guate 1990, when Rios Montt tried to get re-elected. I talked with his flaggs waving supporters. The inscriptions have been: “Por la dignidad nacional”, Rios Montt Presidente. Most of them haven´t any idea who they support. The simple answer was, that the have been payed for standing here. It took over 30 years to convict Rios Montt for his delusive brutality against the indegenious people of Guatemala. A friends father, a painter, got killed by one of this squads. The hope that prosecution succeed is one, the better would be if the people be more aware what dictators will do, and what “Por la dignidad nacional” will stand for. Justice is very important but just a clear off the past.