After a series of hearings, a Guatemalan court has ruled that former military leaders Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez can face trial for genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1980s. Although in office for less than 17 months from 1982-83, Ríos Montt (now 86 years old) served as president of Guatemala during some of the worst human rights violations, notably ethnic cleansing in indigenous communities, during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, during which some 200,000 people died; most of them were civilians whom the military murdered. Sánchez served as a top-level security official during Ríos Montt’s presidency, and oversaw many of the military units tied to human rights violations and genocidal efforts during his time in office. That both men will now finally face a trial for the actions their governments committed is a major step in undoing the impunity military officials enjoyed, and may finally allow the relatives and friends of victims to see some sense of justice, more than 30 years after the fact.
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