Court Replay: Montt Decision Annulled
Yesterday Guatemalan’s constitutional court overthrew the May 10th verdict that convicted former military dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt for the mass genocide of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan people.
Guatemala’s civil war took about 200,000 lives from 1960-1996. During the 17 months General Ríos Montt remained in power, from 1982-1983, some of the greatest human rights violations and crimes against humanity were committed as a result of his orders.
Though Ríos Montt is widely believed to be responsible for the mass murder of the Ixil Mayans, the court annulled its decision on the basis that Ríos Montt lacked a defense lawyer on April 19th after his defense team walked out in protest against what they deemed “illegal proceedings”.
According to the court, the proceedings should have been suspended right then. Instead, during the span of a few hours, Ríos Montt rejected the court-ordered public defense lawyer and failed to retain a defense team of his own.
What does this decision mean for Montt’s trial?
- The guilty verdict is void, including the 80-year prison sentence.
The trial is reset to whatever stood on April 19th: statements given before the April 19th hearing stand, but all testimonies and witness statements, as well as closing arguments, will be repeated.
The legal battle is not over, and the final weeks of the trial will replay. Both sides are preparing for this next phase.
BBC News has an excellent article commenting on the turn of events here.