After Rios Montt’s May, 2013 conviction for genocide committed against the Ixil Indians in 1982-83, it looked like Guatemala had become the first country in the world to try and convict a former head of state for crimes committed while in office. After all those years, justice was being served and Rios Montt was going to jail. However, immediately after the guilty verdict, the Constitutional Court threw out the ruling on a technicality and ordered a retrial which is now set for April, 2014.
But yesterday, the Constitutional Court has said that the case against Rios Montt should be re-examined (not dropped as initially reported by Prensa Libre) due to the general amnesty law signed in 1986. The law itself is controversial considering the fact that it was enacted under a military regime lacking input from the other side. Basically, the military gave themselves amnesty for their past crimes. Either way, the Supreme Court ruled that the amnesty did not extend to crimes against humanity or genocide. And considering that Guatemala is a party to the 1949 Genocide Convention, it seems clear that the amnesty could not overrule it. The Constitutional Court says otherwise. From Mike Allison of Central American Politics blog:
In January 2012, a pre-trial judge rejected amnesty claims. In June 2013, the Supreme Court rejected a motion to stop a retrial on the basis that the amnesty law should apply to Rios Montt. Almost an eternity ago as well, August 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled that the amnesty did not extend to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Many saw it as just another example of the impunity that the military and top officials have enjoyed in Guatemala.
¨This resolution is a step on the route to impunity, and with it, Guatemala is regressing 60 years in its fight for human rights,¨ said legislator Amilcar Pop.
At 87 years-old, Rios Montt will probably be dead before anything comes of this.