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Guatemala ex-dictator found guilty of genocide

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt [JURIST news archive] was found guilty Friday of the genocide, torture and rape of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayans during his 1982-83 rule. The court found that Rios Montt was responsible for commanding his military forces to kill 5.5 percent of the Ixil population, who were deemed "domestic enemies of the state." He was also held responsible for failing to prevent or stop the military's "intended annihilation" of the Ixil Mayans. The three-judge panel headed by Judge Jasmine Barrios issued the verdict less than a day after the conclusion of this landmark trial and sentenced [Plaza Publica report, in Spanish] Rios Montt to 80 years in prison—50 years for genocide and 30 years for other crimes against humanity. The court revoked Rios Montt's 2012 house arrest and has detained him in a military facility. Rios Montt's trial marks the first time a former head of state has been prosecuted for genocide in a national court.

Judge Patricia Flores, who was recused from the case in 2011, halted the trial [JURIST report] and attempted to invalidate a year-and-a-half of court proceedings once she was reinstated last month. However, Barrios continued the trial [JURIST report] against Rios Montt despite the prior ruling annulling the case. In March the UN lauded [JURIST report] Guatemala for beginning the trial against Rios Montt and for prosecuting those responsible for crimes against humanity. Rios Montt was previously protected [JURIST report] from prosecution until last January because he was serving as a member of congress, an immunity that had been lifted due to his departure from the legislature. Rios Montt's trial began on March 19 after a court ordered [JURIST report] him to stand trial last January.

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