Recent developments in the trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez—including last week’s ruling by Judge Carol Patricia Flores to annul all previous proceedings and the Guatemalan Constitutional Court’s ruling earlier this week that the case must be transferred from the presiding judge, Judge Jazmín Barrios, to Judge Flores— have created a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the trial and have raised questions about Guatemala’s commitment to the rule of law, as well as the justice system’s ability to take on such a case (for more information, see WOLA’s April 24 statement). However, in an encouraging move, yesterday the Constitutional Court issued a ruling that compels Judge Flores to rule on evidentiary matters with 48 hours and then to return the case to Judge Barrios within 24 hours. This would allow the case to essentially pick up where it left off when it was suspended last week.
While some legal hurdles remain—the Constitutional Court must still rule on several pending challenges—WOLA is pleased to learn of the Constitutional Court’s decision to return the case to Judge Barrios, which is a clear victory for the rule of law. Lengthy procedural delays, such as those that have been employed by the defense since the beginning of the trial, have the effect of undermining justice. Supporters of the rule of law from various sectors, including the human rights community, international donors, and the business community, will measure Guatemala’s commitment to justice by whether or not it will be able to overcome judicial technicalities and political obstacles in order to bring this historic trial to a conclusion.
WOLA Senior Fellow
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