Reckoning in Guatemala

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.

Published: May 17, 2013 3:43 am

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 Guatemala’s 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.

Chile’s former president Augusto Pinochet,and El Salvador’s brutal far-right leaders Roberto D’Aubuisson 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 Montt’s 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

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