Guatemala: FIDH asks the defence not to use dilatory tactics in the Rios Montt trial.

Press release
en es

Paris, 7 January 2015 – The historic trial of the former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for the killing of 1,771 indigenous people resumed on 5 January. However, the trial was suspended due to the recusal of Judge Valdez following an application by the defence attorneys.

FIDH calls on Rios Montt’s defence attorneys, and those of co-defendant José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, to conduct themselves in keeping with the gravity of the offences and, unlike in the previous trial, to not convert this trial into a series of delaying tactics aimed at postponing a ruling, and further seeking to create procedural defects. FIDH also asks that the principle of due process and the right of the victims to a fair trial be respected, that the safety of the judges, prosecutors and witnesses in the proceedings be guaranteed, and that a new judge be selected as rapidly as possible so that the trial may continue.

Finally, FIDH asks the judiciary ensure that the proceedings are swift and that they not collude in delaying tactics to postpone the start of and continuation of the trial. Ríos Montt is on trial for the deaths of 1,771 indigenous people of the Maya Ixil ethnic group, the forced displacement of 29,000 people, at least nine cases of sexual violence, and several episodes of torture perpetrated by the army between March 1982 and August 1983 in the mountains of the department of Quiché, an area of conflict in the north of the country.

In May 2013, he was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide by the Tribunal Primero A de Mayor Riesgo [Court 1A for High Risk Cases], but only 10 days later, in a highly questionable decision, the Corte de Constitucionalidad (CC) [Constitutional Court] annulled the judgment in response to an action brought by the defence. Since then, he has been held under house arrest at his home.

FIDH reiterates the contents of its observation report (in spanish) on the first trial,where it drew attention to the delaying strategy of the defendants’ defence teams who were seeking to create conditions that would render the trial ineffective through the fraudulent abuse of actions for constitutional protection, recusals, and other types of action. It also noted the pressure placed on the members of the trial court, defence lawyers, and even the survivors and victims themselves who gave evidence at the trial, through the use of smear campaigns, intimidation, and threats.

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