Despite being found guilty for genocide and crimes against humanity — a verdict hailed around the world as striking a decisive blow against the impunity of elites in Guatemala — former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt appears likely to live out his days in the comfort of his home.
Ríos Montt’s conviction in May was a watershed for human rights law. It was the first time a former head of state was convicted of genocide in a national court. The short-lived celebration, however, was extinguished 10 days later when Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the verdict.
Two recent developments in the case’s protracted legal maneuvering cast further doubt on Guatemala’s political will to reconcile with its bloody past. Originally scheduled to resume in April 2014, the trial was postponed again until January 2015, due allegedly to the court’s busy docket. Survivors and their attorneys, who continue to weather threats and harassment, are determined to push forward, but delay will strain their emotional and financial resources. In late October, the Constitutional Court directed the lower court to reconsider its prior holding that the country’s amnesty law did not bar Ríos Montt’s prosecution.
Author: Lauren Carasik