The current genocide trial against ex-Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was dropped Thursday in a surprise legal move, but a judge is likely to launch fresh proceedings, officials said.
The development, on account of procedural reasons, will delay public deliberations over events that have divided the country for 30 years.
The 86-year-old retired general, who insists he was not aware the army was committing massacres, is accused of ordering the execution of 1,771 members of the Ixil Maya people in the Quiche region during his 1982-1983 regime.
Although the current proceedings were scrapped, Judge Carol Patricia Flores said she had been ordered by the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court to pick up the case again.
“The proceedings are being canceled,” she said. “I am not doing this because I want to but because it has been ordered by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court,” because of a pending legal ruling.
Flores was initially in charge of the trial but was recused from the case by defense lawyers over claims of bias.
Judge Miguel Angel Galvez then took over pre-trial proceedings in November 2011, and ordered the public trial against the former dictator.
Flores must now set a date to decide, once again, whether Rios Montt should face a public trial.
The genocide trial would be the first of its kind arising from the 36-year civil war, which pitted leftist guerrillas against government forces and ended in 1996, leaving an estimated 200,000 dead or “disappeared,” according to the United Nations.