La Jornada reported on Monday that two human rights groups who served as plaintiffs in the genocide case of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt are continuing to challenge the annulment of last May’s guilty verdict against him. The Center of Legal Action for Human Rights (CALDH) and Reconciliation and Justice Association (AJR) say they’ve filed an appeal with the Guatemalan Supreme Court to challenge a recent decision from a circuit court which upheld the annulment of the guilty verdict.
In May 2013, a tribunal sentenced Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison after finding that in his time as commander-in-chief of the Guatemalan army during the country’s 36-year-long civil war, he knew about – and did nothing to stop – the massacre of indigenous Ixiles in the northern department of El Quiché and the bombing of mountain regions to which many of the villagers had fled. One of the three judges on the case wrote that they were “completely convinced of the intent to destroy the Ixil ethnic group”, according to the NY Times. But less than two weeks later, the Guatemalan Supreme Court stepped in and annulled the decision amid heavy pressure from the generals’ allies in the country’s business and military elite.
In a 3-2 ruling by the Constitutional Court in the following April, the court found in favor of claims made by Ríos Montt’s attorneys that due process had not been granted after the general’s lawyers walked out of court in protest of what they said was bias on the part of the tribunal’s judges. That led to a later ruling by the Constitutional Court in which it found that all court proceedings occurring after November 23, 2011 – when one of the court’s judges was removed from the case – were null and void. The decision threatens to invalidate the bulk of the genocide proceedings against the 87-year-old, who as a member of Congress in 2011 had benefitted from diplomatic immunity from the charges.