Native Mayas who survived massacres during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war voiced outrage Wednesday at the overturning of the genocide conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
Guatemala’s Constitutional Court on Monday struck down the 80-year sentence given to Rios Montt along with his conviction for genocide and war crimes.
The annulment “mocks the Ixil people,” said Nebaj mayor Ana Laynez.
Nebaj, along with the municipalities of Chajul and Cotzal, form the Ixil Maya region in the northern department of Quiche.
Rios Montt went on trial in March on charges of ordering the massacre of indigenous Ixil Maya people in the 1980s as part of a scorched-earth policy during his dictatorship.
He was convicted on May 10 of genocide and war crimes and was sentenced to 80 years prison.
However the Constitutional Court struck down the conviction and the sentence on grounds the 86-year-old Rios Montt was denied due process.
The Monday ruling is an “outrage” and an example of racism towards the indigenous people of Guatemala, Laynez said at a press conference.
From the point of view of the indigenous people, “justice in Guatemala has been kidnapped by those who have economic, political and military power,” said said Manuel Vail, a Maya priest.
“They can overturn the sentence,” said Vail, “but they cannot overturn the stain they carry in their conscience, or Guatemala’s shame in the eyes of the world,” he said.
Several of the Maya natives that testified in Rios Montt’s trial are “disappointed” by the “lack of seriousness” in the legal process, added Edwin Canil, a leading rights activist.
With more than 14 million people, Guatemala’s population is about 40 percent indigenous, overwhelmingly from ethnic Maya groups.