For the first time, a former head of state is being tried for genocide in the courts of his own country. The trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt, who served as president of Guatemala from the time he seized power in a military coup in March 1982 until he was forced out in another military coup in August 1983, began on March 19 in Guatemala City. The prosecutor alleged that Ríos Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez, his chief of intelligence, were responsible for the killing of 1,771 Ixils—one of Guatemala’s twenty-two distinct indigenous peoples—and the forced displacement of another 29,000, many them tortured or sexually abused by the army.
Reckoning with Genocide By Aryeh Neier
Photo: General Efraín Ríos Montt (center) announcing his military coup, Guatemala City, March 23, 1982 (Bettman/Corbis)