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Genocide Trial in Guatemalan Suspended Genocide Trial in Guatemalan Suspended

April 21, 2013 - On Friday, uncertainty reigned in the courtroom at the genocide trial of Efrain Rios Montt the former army dictator of Guatemala.

Judges in the Central American country argued over who should be the judge hearing the case, after an order was given to annul nearly 18 months of legal proceedings.

On Thursday, the trial was suspended when the presiding judge Patricia Flores, who originally was given the case, ruled that everything done since she has been recused last November was void. She cited an order sent down from the top courts in the country.

On Friday, the attorney general of Guatemala said the judge’s ruling was not legal, echoing the same view of one of the current presiding judges who requested that the country’s constitutional court make a ruling.

Rios Montt, who is 86, has been charged with crimes against humanity and genocide for his plan of counter insurgency while he ruled the country between 1982 and 1983. The plan killed 1,771 members of the indigenous group Ixil.

Many human rights supporters have called the trial a landmark in the efforts to bring to justice leaders during the bloody 36-year civil war.

Claudia Paz y Paz, the attorney general said an appeal had been lodged against the decision made by Flores. Paz y Paz told news agencies that she has never seen something such as this in any case prior to this one.

Prosecutors are worried that there is not deadline the constitutional court has to resolve the matter.

On Friday, the judge that is currently overseeing the court proceedings with two other sitting judges announced a suspension in the trial pending the Constitutional Courts ruling.

The trial has stirred powerful emotions in the country and put a harsh light on the country’s armed forces for their action taken during the armed conflict. Over 100 victims testified in the trial. They testified about being tortured, raped and watching their homes burnt to the ground during the 17 months Rios Montt was in power.

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