14 December 2006
Patrick Daniels, co-chair of the Guatemala Solidarity Network has written a piece in the Guardian’s Comment is free section about Efraín Ríos Montt , Guatemalan dictator between 1982 and 1983 and the possibility that he will face justice for his crimes.
During a 36 year civil war between 1960 and 1996 approximately 200,000 people, mainly Mayans were killed or disappeared –responsibility for the overwhelming majority of these deaths rests with the Guatemalan military and militias under its command... The violence was its greatest during Rios Montt’s regime when the number of killings and disappearances exceeded 3,000 per month.
Rios Montt seized power in a coup on 23 March 1982. He immediately suspended the constiution and began a campaign against political opponents that included kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial assassinations. In the countryside he unleashed a vicious campaign (known as frijoles y fusiles or beans and guns) against the nation’s indigenous Mayan population He was overthrown in a bloodless coup in August 1983 by General Meija Victores. After his removal he attempted a political career but was banned from running in presidential elections in 1990, 1994 and again in 2003.
In 1999 Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú and a group of Spanish and Guatemalan NGOs filed a suit in the Spanish national court against several senior Guatemalan officials, including Ríos Montt. The defendants were accused of terrorism, genocide and systematic torture.
In September 2005, the Spanish constitutional court ruled that Spanish courts had jurisdiction over crimes of international importance - such as torture, crimes against humanity and genocide - regardless of the nationality of the victims and perpetrators. An extradition warrant for the arrest of Ríos Montt was submitted the following month, and the Guatemalan constitutional court is currently considering the request.
Whereas Pinochet cheated justice Rios Montt may well face justice in Spain.
Rios Montt Guatemala