On January 26, 2012, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (Centro Para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos or CALDH) filed suit against Efraín Ríos Montt, former president of Guatemala from 1982 to 1983, for genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt’s had not been served earlier with suit because he was protected under Guatemalan law as a member of Congress. Ríos Montt ended his term at Congress in 2012 and no longer had immunity from charges against him.
These charges allege that Ríos Montt was the mastermind of “1,771 deaths, the forced displacement of 29,000 people, sexual violence against at least 8 women, and torture of at least 14 people,” and the “deaths of 201 people in Dos Erres (Petén) in December 1982.” (www.riosmontt-trial.org/trial-background/) However, the trial has focused on the killings, forcible displacement, sexual violations and torture of the Ixil population in the Quiche region.
Ríos Montt rose to power through a coup d’état, was president for seventeen months during 1982 to 1983, and finally was thrown out by another coup d’état. Ríos Montt argues that his fierce draconian ruling was necessary to prevent any sort of communist uprising, as was the common sentiment among the caudillo dictators throughout Latin America. Although, the current president, Otto Pérez Molina, has not supported the prosecution, the trial, nevertheless, symbolizes a stride towards the protection of human rights.
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