Friday, May 10, 2013

Former Guatemala Dictator Sentenced to 80 Years for Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity

General Efraín Ríos Montt (center) announces his military coup,
Guatemala City, March 23, 1982 (Bettman/Corbis)
May 10, 2013 - Guatemala's former leader, Efrain Rios Montt, 86, was convicted in court today on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the most brutal part of country's 36-year civil war. By the time that war ended in 1996, over 200,000 people were killed or "disappeared." (Some testimony highlights can be seen in the video below.)

Rios Montt came to power after a coup d'etat on March 23, 1982 "and was accused of implementing a scorched-earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers thought to be helping leftist rebels," reports Straits Times. A report at BBC News says that "Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982 and 1983."

Efrain Rios Montt on trial in courtroom
Rios Montt on trial - AP
Rios Montt was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the crime of genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity in a sentence that was handed down on May 10, 2013 by Judge Yassmin Barrios in Guatemala City. In her decision, Barrios said Rios Montt was fully aware of plans to exterminate the indigenous Ixil population carried out by security forces under his command. The genocide conviction was the first for a current or former head of state in a national court, Human Rights Watch said.

Rios Montt still denies that he ordered any genocidal killings and claims that he did not have full control of everything that happened during the struggle.

It was the state's first official acknowledgment that genocide occurred during the bloody, 36-year civil war, something the current president, retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina, has denied. He knew about everything that was going on and he did not stop it, despite having the power to stop it from being carried out," said Presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios."Rios Montt is guilty of genocide." Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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