On December 15 Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s de facto president during the early 1980s, delivered himself to the Attorney General’s office to ask if he would be tried for his 10-year-old charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against the indigenous populations. Mr. Ríos Montt said, “if there’s a criminal investigation against me, it should go forth according to due process and I should stand trial.” This seemingly honest move comes on the heels of a new legislature, which is to take office next month, thus losing Mr. Ríos Montt his congressional seat, and the immunity from prosecution that comes with it. In a December 20 article, the Council on Foreign Relations said this indicated nothing more than a clear grasp on the reality of what would happen after his immunity expired, especially considering the tension that exists between himself and the incoming president Otto Perez Molina. The article also pointed out that the new leader of the Attorney General’s office, Claudia Paz y Paz, has proven more than willing to pursue his case, as her office has already convicted four soldiers, and has recently pressed charges against five more for their roles in massacres that occurred during Mr. Ríos Montt’s rule. Furthermore, Spain’s National Court issued an international arrest warrant for Ríos Montt on genocide charges in 2006, making his flight potentially more dangerous than facing the charges domestically. While the article certainly does not praise Mr. Ríos Montt for his decision to turn himself in, as it is seemingly his only option, it does say that this has positive implications for Guatemala’s justice system, saying, “the fact that Ríos Montt has to engage with the charges at all shows that something may finally be right with Guatemala’s fledgling justice sector.”

Photo: prensalibre.com