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Bringing justice to victims of international crimes

Efrain Rios Montt

On trial
Trial started on 19 March 2013. Sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity on 10 May 2013. Verdict overturned on 19 May 2013; New trial scheduled to begin on 23 July 2015.
President of Guatemala between 1982 and 1983

Efrain Rios Montt was born on 16 June 1926. He began his military career in 1946 as a cadet and was made general in 1972. Between 1970 and 1974 he was chief of the Guatemalan army. In 1974 he was elected president as a candidate of the Christian Democratic Party, but the candidate of the armed forces, General Kjell Laugerud, deposed him and sent him into exile.

In 1978 Montt left the army and became a pastor in the evangelical Iglesia del Verbo (Church of the Word), which has its roots in the USA. In March 1982, the leaders of the military coup against General Lucas Garcia-who succeeded Laugerud- took him back into the presidential palace and made him chief of the military junta. His scorched earth policy led to widespread repression, characterized by massacres against the Indian population and the obliteration of 440 Indian villages. Hundreds of thousands of victims were buried in secret mass graves.

A military coup by the Minister of Defence, Meija Victores, forced Montt to resign in August 1983.

Some time after this, he founded the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). In 2000 he was elected President of the Congress.

On 5 March 2000, the Guatemalan Supreme Court withdrew his parliamentary immunity on account of fraud, falsification of documents, and the destruction of evidence in connection with a sordid case of tax evasion. However, thanks to a clever move by the FRG, which was the strongest party in parliament at that time, he soon got back his immunity. He intended to run as a presidential candidate in November 2003; however, article 126 of the constitution forbids people who have come to power by means of a military coup to run for president. Without further delay, Montt had all the members of the Constitutional Court replaced, and demanded from the newly appointed judges, authorization to run for president in spite of article 126. The court granted his request with four votes in his favour and three against.

With less than 20% of the votes he came third in the elections, and his political career was thus finished. Since he was also no longer a member of parliament, he then lost his parliamentary immunity on 14 January 2004.

In March 2004 he was put under house arrest. As a leader of the FRG he was held responsible for the violent demonstrations that shook the whole country on “Black Thursday” in July 2003. It had been found out that these demonstrations had been organized by the FRG shortly before the presidential elections. The Court of Appeal confirmed his house arrest.

Two sets of legal proceedings were instituted against Efraín Rios Montt: one in Guatemala, the other in Spain (See Efrain Rios-Montt).

Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Fact sheet

Guatemala 16.06.1924 Guatemala 1982  - 1983 06.06.2001
Crimes against humanity
Deprivation of life
Infringment of physical integrity
Deprivation of liberty

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