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Former Guatemalan Dictator to Stand Trial for Genocide

Former Guatemalan Dictator Rios Montt will finally stand trial for genocide during the Guatemalan Civil War – 30 years after the crimes he perpetrated took place.

The 36-year-long US-backed civil war officially came to an end in 1996. The state-sponsored violence led by Montt in 1982 and 1983 disproportionately targeted Indigenous communities.  The military campaign killed more than 200,000 Indigenous Peoples and displaced one million in Guatemala, as well as driving more than 200,000 to take refuge in Mexico.

MADRE has previously called for Montt’s prosecution following the sentencing of a former Guatemalan special forces member who took part in the murders of 201 Indigenous Peoples to 6,060 years in prison.

In 2011, MADRE traced the origins of an ongoing femicide, in which nearly 5,000 women have been killed, to the conflict that technically ended in 1996:

Multiple human rights investigations have found evidence that this violence against women was part of a systematic counterinsurgency strategy by the government. Over one million members of the Guatemalan army, paramilitary forces and police were trained to attack women with rape, mutilation and torture. Today’s attacks reproduce the gruesome tactics of these wartime atrocities.

Many Guatemalan feminists say that is because the perpetrators were never brought to justice once the peace accords were signed in 1996. They were simply re-absorbed into society, taking on new roles as police or in powerful criminal gangs that infiltrated many government agencies.

MADRE found that the same patterns of intentional, militarized violence against women were repeating themselves in Iraq following the 10 year US occupation. More of that analysis can be found here.

Despite a history of state-sponsored violence in countries including Colombia, Nicaragua, and Argentina, Montt will be the first ex-President to be charged with genocide in a Latin American court.