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Trial of Guatemala’s Rios Montt is Latin America’s Latest Step Away From Impunity

Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

Last week, a trial court in Guatemala City decided that there was enough evidence to send Efrain Rios Montt, the former Guatemalan general who headed a military dictatorship from 1982 to 1983, and Jose Rodriguez Sanchez, Rios Montt’s former head of military intelligence, to trial. Rios Montt, along with other military chiefs, is accused of masterminding a scorched earth campaign against the Ixil Mayan group in northern Guatemala that resulted in more than 1,700 deaths in 1982-1983. It is the first time a former head of state in the Americas will stand trial for genocide.

While the trial in Guatemala still faces many obstacles, it is part of an overall regional trend toward prosecution and away from amnesty laws. Over the past decade, courts and prosecutors in a number of Latin American countries have pushed forward with investigations and prosecutions in cases involving the disappearance, murder and torture of real and perceived political opponents under former regimes. ...

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