Guatemala `slipping back into impunity`: Amnesty

Guatemala is in danger of "slipping back into a state of impunity" a year after it annulled the genocide conviction against former president Efrain Rios Montt, Amnesty International warned Tuesday.

AFP| Last Updated: May 20, 2014, 07:37 AM IST

London: Guatemala is in danger of "slipping back into a state of impunity" a year after it annulled the genocide conviction against former president Efrain Rios Montt, Amnesty International warned Tuesday.

The rights group said that victims of the country`s 36-year civil war were having their hopes of redress undermined by the replacement of key judicial figures and the passing last week of a resolution -- proposed by Rios Montt -- that stated no genocide had taken place in the conflict.

The 87-year-old has been accused of ordering the massacre of more than a thousand indigenous Ixil Maya people, suspected of supporting guerrillas during the war that ended in 1996.

The former general was convicted in May 2013 of genocide and war crimes in a historic ruling that landed him an 80-year sentence.

However, that same month, the Constitutional Court struck down the conviction and the sentence on grounds the ex-dictator was denied due process.

"Victims of Rios Montt`s crimes have been fighting for justice for more than three decades and now are again facing numerous obstacles created to deny them that justice," said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

"Guatemala owes a debt of justice to those victims, as well as to the rest of the estimated 200,000 victims of the conflict."

The London-based group pointed out that the attorney general who oversaw the prosecution of the original case had been replaced and the presiding judge disbarred.

It said that last week`s passing of the non-binding resolution by Congress went against the United Nation`s 1999 investigation, which concluded that genocide and crimes against humanity had occurred.

"Findings of fact which result from independent investigations and impartial courts cannot be ignored because they make uncomfortable reading for those in positions of power," said Elgueta.

"Congress should support efforts to hold accountable those alleged to have committed mass human rights atrocities, not strengthen a climate of impunity and discrimination against Indigenous People in Guatemala," he added.

"Guatemala is currently at a crossroads. The country should not turn back the clock and return to the days when cases of past human rights violations were simply not investigated or prosecuted."

Rios Montt`s presidency was one of the bloodiest stretches of Guatemala`s civil war.

Under his regime, the Guatemalan army carried out a "scorched earth" policy against indigenous people.