Genocide Trial of Ríos Montt Opens in Guatemala


On a historic day for justice in Guatemala and the world, the trial for Guatemala’s former military dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt began this morning in Guatemala City.

Ríos Montt and his co-accused, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez – are standing trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the civil war in Guatemala, in which some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, a majority of them indigenous Maya.

ICTJ is pleased to announce that Open Society Justice Initiative has launched a new trial-monitoring website in a collaborative effort to provide reporting and analysis of the trial. ICTJ will be providing transitional justice commentary and analysis on the OSJI website as the trial proceeds. The website will also be reporting through a designated Twitter feed @RiosMonttTrial.

You can follow the daily live stream of the trial here, starting at 10:30 am NY time.


Ríos Montt became the de facto head of state of Guatemala after a coup in March 1982 and stayed in power until August 1983. During this time, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayan civilians in rural villages were brutalized, displaced from their communities, or massacred.

After a peace was negotiated in 1996, Ríos Montt remained an influential political figure as the leader of the right-wing Guatemalan Republican Front party.

The Ríos Montt trial marks the first time that a former head of state is being tried for genocide in a credible national court, by the national authorities, in the country where the alleged crimes took place.

The trial comes fourteen years after a truth commission concluded that violence used by state security forces against Maya-Ixil people constituted acts of genocide.

The success of Guatemala’s recent efforts to bring perpetrators of conflict-related crimes to justice is due largely to the courage of national prosecutors, civil society organizations and victims’ communities in their pursuit of accountability for these heinous crimes.

Learn more about justice in Guatemala in this recent op-ed on the Ríos Montt trial by Paul Seils, commentary by Marcie Merksy on Guatemala's struggle for justice, and this interview with Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey.

PHOTO: Guatemala's former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt is standing trial for genocide. Sandra Sebastián/PLAZA PUBLICA