Retired General José Efraín Ríos Montt, the U.S. backed dictator who governed Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983, was sentenced by Judge Yasmín Barrios to 80 years in prison yesterday, 50 years for genocide, and 30 years for crimes against humanity. The focus of the trial was on the murder of 1,771 Ixil Mayas. Rodriguez Sánchez, a former intelligence director, was acquitted of all charges.
During the civil war in Guatemala (1960 – 1996), more than 200,000 Guatemalans were massacred, in the large majority of cases by the Guatemalan army, civil patrols, and other state agents. Most of these atrocities were committed between 1978 and 1984. For most of this period Guatemala was among the worst human rights offenders in the hemisphere.
This trial marks the first time someone with command authority over the perpetrators of forced disappearances, torture, rape, and the mass murder of Guatemalan citizens has been tried and convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala.
When will the trainers and funders of murderers be bought to account?
Montt with supporter in chief, US President, Ronald Reagan.
International human rights organizations played an important role in supporting and disseminating information about the trial. It is impossible to exaggerate the courage of the non-governmental human rights organizations in Guatemala, the witnesses who testified at the trial, and the actors in the criminal justice system of Guatemala who have risked their lives in seeing this prosecution through to the end. Today humanists throughout the world join the Ixil people and other survivors of the genocide in celebration and anticipate that this conviction will accelerate the trend towards justice and accountability throughout the hemisphere.