A Guatemalan court ruled Thursday that a 1986 amnesty law does not bar prosecution of retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt for crimes against humanity during his 1982-1983 rule of the Central American country.
Rios Montt’s request for amnesty is out of order, Judge Miguel Angel Galvez said, as Guatemala’s 1996 Law of National Reconciliation specifically excludes impunity for crimes such as mass murder, torture and forced disappearance.
The magistrate also cited Guatemala’s 1950 ratification of the U.N. convention against genocide, which holds that crimes against humanity are not subject to the statute of limitations.
Galvez ordered prosecutors to pursue the investigation to its conclusion, at which point the judge will decide whether the 85-year-old Rios Montt should stand trial.
Rios Montt, who has been under house arrest since Jan. 26, ruled Guatemala during the bloodiest phase of a 36-year-long civil war that claimed more than 200,000 lives. Most of the dead were Indian peasants slaughtered by the army and its paramilitary allies.
The erstwhile dictator has been linked to 11 massacres of indigenous people.