Annulment of General Ríos Montt’s conviction: FIDH asks EU member states not to ratify the EU-Central America Association Agreement

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FIDH publishes its report on the trial of General José Efraín Ríos Montt and on the historic 80 years jail sentence for genocide and crimes against humanity taken on 10 May 2013 by the Guatemalan High Risk Tribunal. In the conviction, the Court found that Ríos Montt’s responsibility in the massacre of 1,771 indigenous Maya Ixil people, the forced displacement of 29,000 persons, at least nine cases of sexual assault and several episodes of torture perpetrated by the Army between March 1982 and August 1983 had been established.

Ten days later, on 20 May 2013, the Constitutional Court arbitrarily ordered that the trial should start over as of 19 April, cancelling part of the debate and annulling the conviction. In addition, a first instance Court recently made a decision that could potentially return the proceedings to November 2011, when Ríos Montt had not been indicted yet, with the risk that the trial will not restart.

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President commented, referring to the human rights clause in the EU-Central America Association Agreement, ratified by Guatemala in June 2013: Considering the seriousness of the evidence and the gravity of the irregularities in the Constitutional Court’s decisions, and recalling the European Union’s commitment to fight against impunity for international crimes, including genocide, FIDH calls upon the EU member states not to ratify the EU-Central America Association Agreement, until the validity of Rios Montt’s conviction is recognised, or a new trial is held, resuming the proceedings from 19 April 2013.

The decision by the Constitutional Court reflects the weaknesses of the Guatemalan legal system and calls into question its independence and impartiality, with serious consequences for the victims’ right to truth, justice and reparation, and for the rule of law.

Indeed, in its report FIDH not only highlights the delay tactics deployed by the defence, aimed at creating conditions to undermine the trial by fraudulent abuse of amparo proceedings, challenges and other recourses, but also that several Courts, including the Constitutional Court, have taken illegal actions to cancel the conviction and render almost impossible to have a new trial. FIDH’s report also notes the pressure against the High Risk Tribunals, the defence lawyers and even the survivors and victims testifying at the trial, in the form of defamation, intimidation and threats.

Bearing in mind the gravity of this annulment both for the victims of the genocide and for the principle of independence of the Judiciary, FIDH asks the Constitutional Court to review and amend its decision, and to uphold Ríos Montt’s conviction.

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