Setback in the Quest for Justice in Guatemala


On Monday, May 20, 2013, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court overturned the verdict in the Rios Montt trial, and set the trial back to where it stood on April 19th.  The court will return to the point of closing arguments, so witnesses and expert witnesses will not need to testify again.   This is yet another in a series of hurdles the prosecution and civil parties have faced in this case, but we remain hopeful that justice will prevail.


In a historic decision, a three judge panel in Guatemala found former military dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the genocide against 1,771 Mayan-Ixil people and sentenced him to 50 years in custody!

This is the first time that a former head of state has been found liable for genocide in a national court.

This verdict is the culmination of 15 years of tireless efforts from victims and human rights defenders in Guatemala to hold Ríos Montt accountable. We congratulate all those who made this unprecedented verdict possible for never giving up despite all of the obstacles. It is because of their persistence that justice has been served and that Guatemala will be changed forever.      

We congratulate the survivors, our clients, the team from the office of Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, Centro de Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH), Edgar Perez, the Asociación para la Justicia y la Reconciliación (AJR), Presiding Judge Yasmin Barrios, Judge Patricia Bustamante, Judge Pablo Xitumuland, and the many friends and colleagues in Guatemala and around the globe who have come together over the years to make today’s verdict possible.

CJA has a long history of working for justice on behalf of the people of Guatemala and are truly honored to have been able to contribute to this extraordinary moment in the history of justice.  In 2006, after efforts in Guatemala to obtain justice failed, a pioneering effort led by CJA’s international Attorney Almudena Bernabeu resulted in the creation of an international legal team that strategized and worked together on the cases in both Spanish and Guatemalan courts. The team presented testimony and evidence from more than 40 survivors and 12 expert witnesses in Spain. The end goal of our case in Spain was always to simultaneously, advance and support a prosecution for genocide in Guatemala.  During the past few weeks, all of the evidence that CJA developed for the case in Spain was introduced in the proceedings in Guatemala and helped support today’s verdict.  

For more on the case in Guatemala please click here, for more on the case in Spain please click here.