Saturday, March 03, 2012

Guatemala: UN welcomes judge’s decision to deny amnesty to former dictator

The United Nations human rights office today welcomed the news that a Guatemalan judge rejected the claim that a former dictator is protected under an amnesty law from being tried on genocide charges.

Efrain Rios Montt, 85, was in power from 1982 to 1983 when some of the country’s worst civil war atrocities occurred, including the murder, torture and displacement of thousands of indigenous Mayans.

For the past 12 years, Mr. Rios Montt served as a congressman and enjoyed immunity from prosecution. However, this immunity was lifted on 14 January 2012, when he lost a re-election race last year.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled the amnesty law is invalid because of a 1949 international treaty against genocide that Guatemala signed long before the amnesty was declared.

This ruling “appears to open the door to striking down amnesty for anyone accused of genocide related to the country’s 36-year civil war, in which around 200,000 people are believe to have been killed,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he reiterated OHCHR’s position regarding amnesties, affirming that they should never be granted for serious international crimes.