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Genocide conviction overturned

May 21, 2013

Guatemala's top court has overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and ordered his trial restart to solve several appeal issues. The ruling comes 10 days after his landmark conviction.

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt attends the second day since his trial for genocide charges restarted at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, May 2, 2013. The trial has been up in the air after judges squabbled over who should hear the case following an order to annul nearly 18 months of proceedings. Rios Montt, 86, is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for a counterinsurgency plan conceived under his 1982-1983 rule that killed 1,771 members of the Ixil indigenous group in one of the bloodiest phases of Guatemala's civil war. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez (GUATEMALA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Image: Reuters

Guatemala's Constitutional Court on Monday ordered that all the proceedings against Rios Montt, 86, be voided going back to April 19, when the case was temporarily suspended by a dispute over which judges had jurisdiction.

His conviction was hailed as a landmark for justice in the Central American nation and the first such guilty verdict over a genocide which occurred during the country's 36-year civil war.

Rios Montt's lawyers immediately filed an appeal and he was moved to a military hospital, where he remains.

It was unclear when the trial would restart.

A bloody legacy

The ruling came 10 days after a three-judge panel convicted Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres during Guatemala's civil war. The tribunal sentenced him to 80 years in prison.

Rios Montt came to power in 1982 following a coup, and remained until 1983. He was accused of allowing his troops to massacre thousands of villagers, turning his back on rape, torture and arson by soldiers in an attempt to defeat Guatemala's leftist rebels.

He was tried for the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, just a portion of those who died during his rule.

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala endured a civil war that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, and Rios Montt's year in power has been considered the most deadly of the decades-long conflict.

Rios Montt has denied he knew of the massacres while in power.

For years, he avoided prosecution because he had immunity as a congressman, which ended in 2012.

hc/ccp (Reuters, AP)

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