Arrest of former dictator lauded in Guatemala

Efrain Rios Montt

Efrain Rios Montt

February 13, 2012

The decision of a judge to order the arrest of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, is a good precedent to remove the impunity that has prevailed for years in the country, said the executive director of the human rights office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala.

"If you can get a conviction in the case of Rios Montt, that would be a historical precedent in a country where justice is not applied to people linked to the army," the director, Estuardo Paredes, told Catholic News Service.

In a preliminary hearing Jan. 26, prosecutors accused Rios Montt, former president and commander in chief of the army, of being responsible for and directing military operations against Mayan people during Guatemala's civil war.

According to prosecutors, nearly 1,800 indigenous Guatemalans were massacred by the army, which considered them guerrilla collaborators.

Rios Montt, now 85, was allegedly in charge of these operations.