International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

UN Experts' Statement on Guatemala: “Justice, the best guarantee to prevent the recurrence of atrocities”

GENEVA (15 May 2013) – A group of United Nations experts said today that the establishment of truth and justice in Guatemala, as well as being fundamental elements for reparation for the victims, are essential to ensure the non-recurrence of the heinous crimes that characterized the civil war in the country, including enforced disappearance, arbitrary executions, rape and forced displacement of people.

“Justice is the best guarantee to prevent the recurrence of these crimes,” stressed the UN experts after last Friday’s court ruling that sentenced the former head of State José Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity.

For the experts, this decision not only addresses the State’s international obligations, but also represents a profoundly significant milestone in the long … Continue Reading

Imminent Constitutional Court Judgments May Affect Guatemalan Genocide Conviction

The conviction of former de facto head of state Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity faces continuing challenges. The verdict was issued on Friday, May 10, with the court imposing an 80-year sentence; a full judgment is due to be released in a hearing on Friday, May 17. However, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court plans to release various judgments in advance of Friday’s hearing which threaten to complicate matters, and even potentially annul the trial.

Uncertain impact of anticipated Constitutional Court judgments

The Constitutional Court was reportedly due to release four judgments on Wednesday at midday. Chaos reigned at the court at the time the Constitutional Court had set for the release of the judgments:  there was a pro-Rios Montt demonstration … Continue Reading

Guatemala Awaits Constitutional Court’s Rulings Following Rios Montt Guilty Verdict

Since before the start of the Guatemalan genocide trial, defense counsel filed scores of legal challenges—including some to delay or prevent the proceedings; challenge the impartiality of the presiding judges; or put into question the fairness of the trial. Now, in the week following the guilty verdict of former de facto head of state Efrain Rios Montt, defense counsel seek to overturn the guilty verdict, nullify the entire trial, and impugn the judges. The Constitutional Court has said that it plans to release three judgments in connection with the Rios Montt trial midday on Wednesday.

Rios Montt’s lawyer, Francisco García Gudiel, has informed the media that there are at least 12 legal challenges pending before the Constitutional Court … Continue Reading


Court Orders Reparations Following Rios Montt Conviction on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity Charges

The trial court approved 12 of the reparations requested by civil parties representing the victims in a reparations hearing Monday, May 13, 2012. The hearing was held three days after the conviction of de facto head of state Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Soon after the court’s reparations ruling, Guatemala’s president announced a willingness to comply with at least some of the reparations ordered by the court.

Rios Montt was noticeably absent from the hearing. After a weekend in Matamoros Prison following his Friday conviction and 80-year sentence, Rios Montt was transferred Monday morning to a military hospital on account of hypertension, according to the hospital and his lawyers. Also on Monday, … Continue Reading

Rios Montt Convicted of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: The Sentence and Its Aftermath

On the afternoon of Friday, May 10, 2013, a Guatemalan trial court (High Impact Court “A”) found General Efrain Rios Montt, former de facto head of state, guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. The conviction was for crimes committed against Guatemala’s Maya Ixil indigenous population during Rios Montt’s 17-month rule in 1982 and 1983. The judge presiding over the trial court read out an hour-long summary version of the tribunal’s ruling to a packed courtroom, with the full judgment to follow.

Rios Montt, 86 years old, was sentenced to 80 years in prison – 50 years for genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity, served consecutively. His house arrest was revoked and the judge ordered his immediate transfer to Matamoros Prison. His co-accused, … Continue Reading


ICTJ: Rios Montt Conviction is a Victory for Justice

New York, NY, April 18, 2013—The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) welcomes today’s verdict in Guatemala by the High Risk Court in the trial of former military dictator José Efrain Ríos Montt. The 86-year-old ex-general was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity against the indigenous Mayan Ixil population during Guatemala’s Civil War. He was sentenced to a total of 80 years in prison. José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, the co-accused, who headed military intelligence under Ríos Montt, was found innocent.

A three-judge panel found retired army general Ríos Montt guilty on all charges, which stemmed from the massacre of 1,771 Mayan Ixils, massive displacement, and subjecting the Ixil group to conditions designed to destroy it. The actions were part of … Continue Reading


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 … Continue Reading


Judgment in Genocide Trial Expected Today at 4 pm Despite Pre-trial Judge's Call for Trial's Annulment

The trial in the case of Efrain Rios Montt and Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez for genocide and crimes against humanity concluded this morning.

The last order of business was a statement from Rodriguez Sanchez, head of military intelligence under Rios Montt’s government. He spoke to the court, affirming his innocence of the charges against him. Then, with a bang of her gavel, presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios  declared the conclusion of the trial and said that the court would reconvene at 4 pm (Guatemala time) for a verdict and sentencing.

In light of a pre-scheduled hearing called by Judge Carol Patricia Flores, a pre-trial judge who handles evidentiary and other matters in connection with the case, Judge Barrios instructed the parties that, while they may attend that … Continue Reading

Historic Genocide Trial Nears End; Rios Montt Addresses the Court, Declares Innocence

After several weeks of fits and starts, the trial of Efrain Rios Montt and Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez is nearing conclusion. The former head of state and chief of military intelligence, being prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity in a Guatemalan courtroom, could expect a sentence as early as today after a dramatic week. After Thursday’s hearing, all that remains of the trial is the statement of co-accused Rodriguez Sanchez. There were risks on Wednesday that the trial’s conclusion would be interrupted by legal maneuvers and the intervention of other courts, and those risks remain though they are decreasingly likely now.

The Public Ministry presented closing arguments on Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday the court heard the remaining closing arguments from … Continue Reading

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