Judge Miguel Angel Galvez denied former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt’s appeal for amnesty in a genocide case yesterday. The charges were originally filed by Judge Carol Patricia Flores Blanco in January and allege that General Ríos Montt was involved in the death of 1,771 individuals and the displacement of 29,000 Indigenous Guatemalans during the 36-year civil war. The January decision case marked the first time a Latin American president was charged with genocide.
Ríos Montt appealed the January decision on the grounds that he is protected by a 1986 amnesty law. However, the ruling yesterday signaled that the international treaty against genocide, signed by Guatemala in 1973, discounts any amnesty protection. “There are crimes like genocide and crimes against humanity that have no statute of limitations, and for that reason there can be no amnesty decree,” said Galvez. But Francisco Palomo, Ríos Montt’s defense lawyer, said the Constitutional Court will be the one to ultimately decide the case.
Ríos Montt took power in a 1982 coup and served as leader of the military junta until the following year. After an unsuccessful presidential run in 2003, the former general went on to win a congressional seat in 2007 as part of the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco (Guatemalan Republican Front). Guatemalan electoral laws protect congressional representatives from prosecution, and Ríoss Montt was untouchable until his term ended on January 14. Retired Generals Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez and Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, who served under Ríos Montt in the 1980s, are also being charged.