Skip to main content

Judge denies former Guatemalan dictator amnesty

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:59 PM EST, Thu March 1, 2012
Former de facto President (1982-1983) Jose Efrain Rios Montt, at a court hearing in Guatemala City on March 1, 2012
Former de facto President (1982-1983) Jose Efrain Rios Montt, at a court hearing in Guatemala City on March 1, 2012
  • Efrain Rios Montt will face a genocide trial as planned
  • He had asked the court for amnesty
  • During his rule, there were massacres in provinces with heavy indigenous populations

Guatemala City, Guatemala (CNN) -- A Guatemalan judge Thursday declined to grant former dictator Efrain Rios Montt amnesty from genocide charges, paving the way for a trial.

Montt's defense team had filed a motion seeking amnesty last week.

The judge argued that the country's 1996 National Reconciliation Law, which coincided with the end of the country's civil war, does not guarantee amnesty for those accused of human rights abuses.

Secondly, the judge said, Guatemala is party to international treaties that obligate it to prosecute crimes of genocide.

Rios Montt ruled Guatemala from 1982 to 1983.

He came to power in a coup and led a military junta while Guatemala was in a bloody civil war between the army and leftist guerrillas. The war did not end until 1996, leaving more than 200,000 people dead and 1 million as refugees.

Prosecutors argued that Rios Montt was aware of the repressive strategies that the military was using against anyone suspected of being a guerrilla, such as killings, forced disappearances and kidnappings, the state-run AGN news agency reported.

The human rights abuse and genocide allegations against him come from his "scorched earth" campaign to root out insurgents in provinces heavily populated by indigenous populations.

He is accused of being responsible for the deaths of more than 1,700 Mayan residents.

During his rule, there were massacres in these provinces in which, according to the Guatemalan truth commission, between 70% and 90% of some villages were razed. The commission found that during this and other periods of the civil war, there were also reported cases of rape, especially of Mayan women.

Journalist Maria Renee Barillas contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.