It’s been a long time coming three decades but the conviction and sentencing on Friday of 86-year-old former dictator Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity is no less important and welcome. The 80-year jail sentence is a vindication of what must have seen a never-ending and impossible campaign by members of Guatemalas Maya Ixil minority,which suffered so brutally at his hands,and sends out an important international reminder to dictators that a continent-wide ending of impunity is not going to be reversed.
Chiles former president Augusto Pinochet,and El Salvadors brutal far-right leaders Roberto DAubuisson and Rene Emilio Ponce may have escaped justice by dying before the courts could pronounce on their crimes… The 36-year civil war in Guatemala that claimed as many as 250,000 lives,and the particularly bloody 17-month rule of Rios Montt in 1982-83,acquired a reputation that put even these bloodthirsty monsters in the shade. Rios Montts army waged war on its own people in the cities students and labour activists,suspected of subversive sympathies,disappeared,were tortured and murdered. In the countryside soldiers randomly raped,tortured and killed indigenous people and razed their villages.
From a leader in The Irish Times,Dublin