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Guatemalan ex-dictator Ríos Montt faces second genocide trial

May 22, 2012

Guatemala’s former military leader Efraín Ríos Montt is facing a second genocide trial after a judge ruled that he could be prosecuted for the massacre of 201 people in 1982.

Gen. Ríos Montt, 86, was charged in January on separate counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The latest case relates to the killings at Dos Erres, a small village in the north of the country, and is considered one of the most brutal episodes of the 36-year civil war.

Defense lawyers argued Ríos Montt was not present during the killings and therefore could not be held accountable, but prosecutors alleged he had authorized the military operation.

A special unit of the Guatemalan army known as the Kaibiles stormed Dos Erres, where they suspected residents were sheltering left-wing guerrillas. Over three days, soldiers systematically killed hundreds of men, women and children, shooting them and throwing bodies down a well.

Asked by a judge for comment, Ríos Montt said: “It is under military law, your honor, that I declare that I am innocent.”

An estimated 200,000 people were killed or went missing during Guatemala’s civil conflict, which ended in 1996. Ríos Montt is currently under house arrest.

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