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Guatemala judge orders second genocide trial for former dictator

A Guatemalan judge ruled Monday that former dictator Efrain Rios Montt will have a second genocide trial for ordering a 1982 massacre which killed 201 people. Judge Carol Patricia Flores found enough evidence [AP report] linking Rios Montt to Las Dos Erres massacre [Reuters] for another genocide trial. The massacre, which took place when about 20 soldiers were ordered to search a village for weapons, was one of the country's deadliest during the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Rios Montt's defense lawyer argued that he was not present during the killings and, therefore, cannot be liable [BBC report] for the massacre. The prosecution maintains that the massacre was part of a military operation ordered by Rios Montt. The second genocide charge comes just months after Rios Montt's trial for the killing of 1,700 Indians.

In January, Rios Montt was made to testify [JURIST report] at his genocide trial, according to a statement by judicial officials. Rios Montt was in control of Guatemala from 1982 to 1983 as a result of a coup and is being charged with crimes against humanity and genocide during his rule. He was protected from prosecution until January because he was serving in congress. Rios Montt said he would cooperate with the court. The case involved at least 1,771 deaths and 1,400 human rights violations during the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War with much of the violations occurring during Rios Montt's rule. Kelsey Alford-Jones, Director of Guatemala Human Rights Commission, argued that it is important for the Public Prosecutor's Office and president to follow through with the genocide charges against Rios Montt to strengthen Guatemala's judiciary [JURIST comment] and bring justice to the victims of genocide

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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