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Rios Montt death closes bloody chapter for Guatemala

06 April 2018

Former dictator General Efrain Rios Montt died on April 1. For many, his death closes one of the most horrific and bloodiest chapters in the history of Guatemala.

Rios Montt photographed during his trial for genocide. (Photo: Elena Hermosa)

For others, particularly the survivors and victims of the genocide, his death represents a denial of justice from the Guatemalan justice system.

In May 2013 a Guatemalan jury found Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and condemned him to 80 years of prison. But 10 days later the Constitutional Court overturned the verdict, citing allegations of procedural errors, and requested a second trial. 

Since then Rios Montt had been under house arrest. In 2016 the second trial began but he had been declared senile and did not attend the hearing. At the time of his death, only 47 audiences had taken place. 

Trócaire working for justice for over 30 years

Trócaire worked for over thirty years to bring justice to the victims of his genocide. Working with partner organisations CALDH and the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), not to mention the remarkable survivors in the Ixil indigeneous community, we shone a light on this dark period of history. 

Under his dictatorship in the early 1980s, over 7,000 members of the Ixil Mayan community were murdered. A UN report found that 70-90 per cent of Ixil villages were razed and 60 per cent of the community were forced to flee to the mountains. 

Rios Montt

Rios Montt photographed during his trial for genocide. (Photo: Elena Hermosa)

Thanks to the tirelessly work of the Ixil and our partners, Guatemalan society learnt about the genocide. Today the world knows that in Guatemala a genocide and sexual violence took place and that racism was the engine that triggered such brutality and atrocities.

The trial against Rios Montt´s former chief of military intelligence, Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez will continue and we would hope that the victims will have a fair trial and verdict.