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Genocide Trial of Former Guatemalan President Suspended Again

Former Guatemalan President Jose Efrain Rios Montt may not have to stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity due to dementia and illness.

Former Guatemalan President Jose Efrain Rios Montt may not have to stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre of Maya Ixil people due to his dementia and illness according to rulings made in the last week by a Guatemalan appeals court.

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In a ruling on July 25, an Appeals Court blocked the order from Tribunal B of Major Risk to have Rios Montt examined again to determine if he was competent to stand trial. On July 7 he had been declared incompetent to stand trial due to cognitive deterioration by the National Forensic Sciences Institute (NFSI) but the Tribunal Judges ordered another examination based on complaints about the NFSI report.

As of press time the former general was still at his home although both his defense lawyers and attorneys from the Legal Action Center for Human Rights were preparing for more conflict.

At the first hearing on July 22, defense attorneys for Rios Montt stated that due to the diagnosis of dementia and diminished capacity made by the NFSI their client was unable to face trial on the genocide and crimes against humanity charges.

The attorneys asserted that Rios Mont, who is 89, would not be able to attend the hearing, as just transporting him to the court would endanger "his very life and health." For these reasons, they argued, the process should be suspended.

However, the judges of Tribunal B of High Risk ordered that Rios Montt be sent to the Federico Mora National Hospital of Mental Health for further examination. He was to stay in that hospital from July 25 to August 3.

An official for the Public Ministry had stated that the NFSI report had been altered and since Rios Montt had been prescribed anti-psychotic and various pain medications (Olanzapina, Tramadol and Valdure) these pharmaceuticals would have affected the diagnosis.

On July 25 Magistrate Noe Ventura Loyo, who had ties to the political party founded by Rios Montt, ordered that the transfer be halted and that the defense motion for "personal exhibition" be granted.