News Release

Allan Nairn: Guatemala Genocide Trial Suspended; Protects President and “Institutional Army”


The New York Times reports: “A Guatemalan judge on Thursday annulled the genocide trial against the former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, a stunning ruling that could force prosecutors to begin the case all over again.”

ALLAN NAIRN, [in Guatemala City] allan.nairn at
A noted investigative reporter, Nairn just wrote the piece “The Genocide Trial of General Efrain Rios Montt Has Just Been Suspended: A firsthand behind-the-scenes account of how Guatemala’s current President and threats of violence killed the case,” which states: “For a while it looked like Guatemala was about to deliver justice. But the genocide case against General Efrain Rios Montt has just been suspended, hours before a criminal court was poised to deliver a verdict. The last-second decision to kill the case was technically taken by an appeals court.

“But behind the decision stands secret intervention by Guatemala’s current president and death threats delivered to judges and prosecutors by associates of Guatemala’s army. Many dozens of Mayan massacre survivors risked their lives to testify.  But now the court record they bravely created has been erased from above. …

“It would be mistaken to think that this case redounds to the credit of Guatemala’s rulers. It was forced upon them from below. The last thing they want is justice. But they agreed to swallow a partial dose because political forces were such that they had to, and because they thought that they could get away with sacrificing Rios Montt to save their own skins.

“I was called to testify in the Rios Montt case, was listed by the court as a ‘qualified witness,’ and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday, April 15. But at the last minute I was kept off the stand ‘in order to avoid a confrontation with the [Guatemalan] executive.’

“What that meant, I was given to understand, was that Gen. Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala’s president, would shut down the case if I took the stand because my testimony could implicate him. Beyond that, there was fear, concretely stated, that my taking the stand could lead to violence since given my past statements and writings I would implicate the ‘institutional army.’

“The bargain under which Perez Molina and the country’s elite had let the case go forward was that it would only touch Rios Montt and his co-defendant, Gen. Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez.   The rest of the army would be spared, and likewise Perez Molina. …”

Nairn was interviewed extensively this morning on Democracy Now!