SOA Graduates Lucas Garcia and Rios Montt Face Genocide Lawsuits Print
Judges have ordered investigations into two former Guatemalan dictators - one of them the current head of the country's congress - accused of genocide in the killings of Maya Indians between 1978 and 1982.

The rulings were issued Tuesday against ex-President Romeo Lucas Garc?a and his successor, Efra?n R?os Montt, by separate judges in response to criminal complaints filed by human rights groups. R?os Montt is president of Guatemala's congress and the major force in the ruling party, the Guatemalan Republican Front. The two rulings mark the first time Guatemalan courts have agreed to investigate former dictators for atrocities committed during 36 years of civil war.

Judge Marco Antonio Posada, who ordered the investigation of the complaint against R?os Montt, said he was aware of the historic nature of his decision. "Prosecutors will conduct a careful investigation that I will personally oversee," Posada said. "This process is extremely important."

Lucas Garc?a won an election rigged by Guatemala's military in 1978 and
began an anti-insurgency campaign that targeted Mayan communities thought to
be sympathetic to rebel causes. R?os Montt, who toppled Garcia's government in a 1982 coup, oversaw a scorched-earth policy that reduced hundreds of Mayan villages to ashes during 18 months in power.

The rulings stem from complaints filed May 3 by the Association for Reconciliation and Justice, which alleges Lucas Garc?a and R?os Montt used
their positions to wage a "calculated war" against Guatemalan Indians. Last
week, the same group teamed up with Guatemala's Center for Human Rights
Legal Action to file a more specific genocide complaint against R?os Montt
on behalf of 14,000 people killed in attacks on 11 Mayan villages. A truth
commission report commissioned by the United Nations in 1999 accused R?os
Montt of tolerating massacres by soldiers under his command. The report
found that the retired general's offensive wiped 448 mostly Indian villages
off the map.

A party spokesman said Wednesday that R?os Montt was not familiar with the
judge's ruling and could not comment. When asked in the past about genocide
complaints, R?os Montt told reporters he has "nothing to hide." Lucas Garc?a, who lives in Venezuela, is reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's disease and has not made any public statement for several years.

In 1999, Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Mench? filed genocide charges
against R?os Montt, Lucas Garc?a and six other military figures before Spain's National Court. The court rejected the case, ruling that Mench? had made
no effort to prosecute R?os Montt and the others in Guatemala. The definition of genocide under Guatemalan law is less restrictive than in other parts of the world, and includes acts that harm the mental or physical well-being of a national, ethnic or religious group.