Remember Jerry Weller? The IL-11 Member of Congress who married Guatamalan genocidal dicator Rios Montt’s daughter. And not just Rios Montt’s daughter, but the current head of Rios Montt’s political operation as he attempted to return to power.
Probably you don’t–this was my hobby horse after all. Well Dad-In-Law Rios Montt was recently convicted of genocide in a Guatamalan Court. And then had the conviction vacated on appeal.
The high court ordered that the all of the trial’s proceedings from April 19 through the verdict and sentencing on May 10 be annulled and repealed. The April date was when the trial was briefly suspended over a jurisdictional dispute initiated by another judge who been recused from the case in November 2011. Rios Montt’s defense team seized upon the incident to denounce the trial as “illegal proceedings” and stage a walkout from the court. Rios Montt refused to use a public defender and was therefore left briefly without representation.
This was the basis for the high court’s ruling, which put forward the legally unprecedented and unfounded remedy of “rewinding” the trial to the date of the alleged judicial error.
Hector Reyes, lawyer for the Center for Legal Action on Human Rights, told the Guatemalan daily La Prensa that the overturning of the verdict took “an eminently illegal form, as the decision of the Constitutional Court lacks any foundation in law.”
Similarly, Francisco Vivar, the legal representative for the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, called the high court ruling a legal fraud.
“We are facing a juridical crisis provoked by the Constitutional Court,” he said. “No tribunal can hear a case whose proceedings are half over. Nor can one say that a trial has been annulled and should be restarted, because there is not one sentence that indicates this.”
The decision means that survivors of the mass killings must repeat their wrenching testimony, recalling the rape, dismemberment and slaughter of men, women and children by the Guatemalan military.
The most important practical effect of the ruling is that the three-judge panel that heard the case, led by Judge Jasmine Barrios, is itself being recused, and the appellate court must now put together a new panel to hear the portion of the trial that is to be repeated.
This is no easy task: scores of judges have already refused to take the case, putting forward various legal rationales, but in overwhelming measure because of well-founded fear that presiding over such a trial incurs the threat of violent retribution. The judges in the original panel received repeated death threats and were obliged to wear bulletproof vests.
A new judicial panel could well arrive at an entirely different verdict, quashing what had been greeted internationally as a landmark decision. It marked the first time that a Guatemalan court had held a former dictator and practitioner of horrific state terror responsible for some of the crimes carried out during more than three decades of military rule and civil war—in which at least 200,000 peasants, workers and students were killed.
Of course, he had help
Many of those most directly involved in this policy, including former State Department official Elliott Abrams, ex-Reagan national security advisor Robert McFarlane, and ex-CIA official Alfonso Sapia-Bosch, are still alive and could be indicted as Rios Montt’s co-conspirators.
Immediately after the high court’s move to abort the Rios Montt trial, Guatemala suddenly organized the extradition to the US of Alfonso Portillo, the country’s president from 2000 to 2004, to face money laundering charges involving up to $70 million in Guatemalan public funds..
Meaning Abrams, McFarlane and Sapia-Bosch are on the No Europe for you travel since the European Union courts tend to extradite people back to countries for human rights trials.
I hope Jerry is having fun down there.