Monday, May 27, 2013

Guatemala's highest court annuls Rios Montt genocide verdict

On May 20th, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the genocide conviction (on May 10th) of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt in an action as outrageous as it was predictable. Beside overturning the genocide conviction, legal proceedings are set back to where they stood on April 19th when his lawyers pulled a legal stunt & were briefly expelled from the courtroom. The entire legal procedure has become a three-ring circus combining farce, tomfoolery, injustice, & is likely to eventually end with impunity for genocide.

The conflict began as a (probably orchestrated) jurisdiction dispute between two judges.  The first judge (once bounced from the trial) ordered the trial suspended over alleged procedural errors in the evidentiary phase. The presiding judge ordered the trial to proceed & when a defense lawyer accused the presiding judge of bias she bounced him from the courtroom. Some reports say the reversal is caused by the jurisdiction dispute; others claim those few hours in which Rios Montt was without legal representation have set the case back. (Rios Montt rejected a public defender appointed by the judge.) All the harrowing testimonies & witness statements from that point onwards will have to be repeated along with closing arguments.

Some reporters describe this as the complexities, convolutions, & labyrinth of the Guatemalan legal system; one says it probably takes a doctorate in Guatemalan law to unravel. How about calling a spade a spade & acknowledging the Guatemalan judicial system is completely compromised, its officials connected to the genocide they are litigating & tasked with covering for Rios Montt’s guilty ass!? All the lawyer stunts, procedural & jurisdictional disputes, & warring judges are part of putting on a show trial that mock justice. And the Mayan victims & witnesses fully understand that.

Rios Montt took a page from the book of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak when a day after the trial (when he was supposed to go to jail) he was transferred to a military hospital after fainting. His lawyers claim he has a raft of health problems from heart disease to hypertension to respiratory & prostrate problems. Psychopathy & genocide can really take a toll on a man even when he is without shame.

It is unclear when the new trial will begin since it has been difficult to find judges to preside. Reportedly hundreds have declined being involved in proceedings against Rios Montt. But Mayan activists say they are willing to press ahead fully aware of the eventual possibility of dismissal.

The man in this photo holding the photo of Juan Perez, a victim of the genocide, is outside the Constitutional Court of Guatemala on May 24, 2013 in Guatemala City to protest the annulment of the genocide verdict.

(Photo by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)

No comments:

Post a Comment