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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 09:50 AM

7. Wading uncharted waters: The trial of Rios Montt

Wading uncharted waters: The trial of Rios Montt

The events in Guatemala are exceptional because they are happening at home, in the nation where the crimes occurred.

Last Modified: 04 Feb 2013 10:48

When a judge ruled last week that former general and Guatemalan head of state Jose Efrain Rios Montt will, finally, stand trial for the crime of genocide, the news resounded profoundly at home and abroad. These events in Guatemala mark the first time a national court, anywhere, prosecutes its own former head of state for the crime of genocide.

Several international courts established in the last 20 years have prosecuted people involved in genocide. The events in Guatemala are exceptional because they are happening at home, in the nation where the crimes occurred.

Rios Montt, 86, is the latest of several ex-officers in Guatemala to face the law concerning crimes committed during the country's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. His arrest in January 2012 - the judge ordered the former army general confined to his home - represented an extraordinary break with impunity in the Central American country; the decision this to proceed with the trial, despite attempts to have the charges dropped, is of even greater significance. No ranking officer has been held responsible for the violence in which some 200,000 people, almost all civilians, lost their lives.

The Rios Montt trial is also an important development in an evolving arena of international human rights.

Aside from a few problematic cases, genocide has been prosecuted in international jurisdictions. In Ethiopia, for example, a former dictator was tried for genocide in absentia. In Iraq, a purportedly "national court", heavily influenced by the United States, then occupying the country, convicted and executed "Chemical Ali". The Nuremburg trials of Nazis in the aftermath of the Holocaust were conducted by a multinational body composed of the allied powers and formally prosecuted crimes against humanity. Rwanda has had genocide trials for its nationals, but none of such high stature.

More:
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/20132364350499257.html

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