Yesterday, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, overturned the genocide conviction and prison sentence of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt. The Court did not invalidate all proceedings, only those following April 19, when a decision was issued by the presiding Judge that, according to the Constitutional Court Tribunal, did not comply with Guatemalan law. It is still unclear whether Rios Montt will be granted a new trial or wether proceedings after April 19 will be repeated before a different Judge.
After last week’s conviction of General Rios Montt, 86, by a Guatemalan court of crimes amounting to Genocide (see last post “Guatemalan Justice Shows de Way) Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years and immediately sent to prison. He was later transferred to a military hospital for medical tests. After’s Monday’s decision he will return to house arrest, where he had been during the proceedings.
Human rights advocates had praised Rios Montt’s conviction as it was the first time a former head of state was convicted of crimes against humanity by a national court. Hopefully, overturning his conviction now does not mean Guatemalan’s Justice will allow impunity for the powerful and this is just a temporary setback for human rights.