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Former Guatemala soldier sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for role in 1982 massacre

A three-judge panel in Guatemala on Monday sentenced a former military official to 6,060 years in prison for his role in a 1982 massacre in which 201 people were killed. The judges sentenced Pedro Pimentel Rios, a former special forces solider whom the US extradited last July, to 30 years in prison for each of the 201 deaths, plus 30 years for crimes against humanity [AP report]. The sentence is primarily symbolic since, under Guatemalan law, a convict can serve a maximum of 50 years in prison. Before his extradition, Pimentel had been living in California working in a sweater factory [BBC report]. Pimentel was one of about 20 Guatemalan soldiers that invaded a small Guatemalan village in 1982, raping and killing men, women and children [Reuters report]. The incident has become known as the Dos Erres massacre, named for the village in which it occurred. Pimentel is the fifth former soldier to be convicted in connection with the Dos Erres massacre.

The Guatemalan civil war, which lasted from 1960-1996 [BBC timeline] resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, mostly among Guatemala's large indigenous Mayan population. According to a UN report [text, in Spanish] released in 1999, the military was responsible for 95 percent of those deaths. Earlier this month a Guatemalan judge denied amnesty [JURIST report] to former dictator Effan Rios Montt, who was in power during the Dos Erres massacre. In February, JURIST guest columnist and Director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission Kelsey Alford-Jones opined [JURIST op-ed] that prosecuting Rios Montt was necessary to bring justice to his victims, as well as strengthen the Guatemalan judiciary. In August a Guatemalan court sentenced four former soldiers [JURIST report] to over 6,000 years in prison on war crimes charges related to the Dos Erres massacre.

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