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Guatemalan Constitution Court Annuls Ríos Montt Verdict PDF Print E-mail

Guatemala’s high court has overturned the genocide conviction of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In the guilty verdict delivered by Guatemalan courts on May 10, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity in the targeted extermination of at least 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayan people during his fifteen month rule from 1982-83.

However, in a 3-to-2 ruling Monday, May 20, the constitutional court dismissed the court proceedings going back to April 19. On that date the court suspended the trial due to disputes between judges over jurisdiction. The court presiding over the case against Ríos Montt had been influenced heavily by lobbyists which supported this powerful figure in the Guatemalan military and political sphere. One of the most influential of these was Guatemalan business association CACIF.

The Constitutional Court’s approval of the annulment is based on a technical procedure. Ríos Montt remains in a military hospital where he has been since last week’s conviction. His legal status undefined, it is likely he will be put on house arrest.

This decision serves as a reminder that the struggle for justice and reparations is never over, and therefore cannot accept delay as defeat, nor corruption as an inevitability. The very fact that this historic trial came to fruition is testament to peoples’ determination and willingness to move forward, unyielding, in stride toward a brighter tomorrow. Those in Guatemala who twenty years ago cried ¡Nunca más! have witnessed the product of their persistence, and will continue to move onward, for, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once expressed, "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."


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