MEXICO CITY -- Guatemala’s highest court late Monday overturned the genocide conviction of former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt, a verdict that had been hailed by human rights organizations but now hangs in limbo.
The Constitutional Court said the landmark trial of Rios Montt should have been halted and rewound to an earlier date because of a jurisdictional dispute, Guatemala’s Prensa Libre reported on its website. The ruling suggested that Rios Montt would be retried or that parts of the trial, which contained graphic and chilling testimony from victims, would be redone.
A three-judge panel convicted Rios Montt, 86, on May 10 of genocide in the slaughter of more than 1,700 Ixil Maya in the early 1980s, some of the bloodiest years of Guatemala’s long civil war and the period during which he served as de facto president of the country.
Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but that sentence was vacated in the Monday ruling. The conviction had represented a rare prosecution of a former leader on human rights atrocities by a court of his own nation.