Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Ex-dictator denies Maya genocide order

10 May 2013, 11:31

Guatemala City — Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt denied on Thursday that he ordered the extermination of Ixil Mayas as he testified for the first time at his genocide trial.

The 86-year-old ex-general, who ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983 during the height of its civil war, said prosecutors hadn't proved his participation in the killings.

"I declare myself innocent," Rios Montt told the three-judge tribunal as many in the audience applauded. "It was never my intention or my goal to destroy a whole ethnic group."

"I never ordered attacks on a specific race. I never did it, and of everything they have said, there was no clear participation," he added.

The court was packed with representatives of indigenous, human rights and student groups as well as former soldiers and family members of victims.

Ixil Indian Benjamin Geronimo, president of the Justice and Reconciliation Association, told the tribunal that he survived massacres and killings that claimed the lives of 256 members of his community.

Prosecutors want 75 years

"I saw it with my own eyes, I'm not going to lie. Children, pregnant women and the elderly were killed," said Geronimo, who spoke on behalf of the victims.

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a genocidist to enter the kingdom of God," he said, sparking applause and cries of "justice" from the audience.

Rios Montt is being tried together with Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, a 68-year-old former general who was a high-ranking member of the military chiefs of staff during Rios Montt's administration. Rodriguez Sanchez's lawyer denied the charges against him.

On Wednesday, prosecutors asked that both men be sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Francisco Garcia Gudiel, Rios Montt's defense lawyer, denied the charges during closing arguments on Thursday.

"My defendant never ordered, never ran, never planned, and never oversaw what he is accused of doing," he said.

At least 1 771 slaughtered

A verdict could come on Friday, although the judges have given no indication when they might deliver a verdict.

Rios Montt seized power in a 23 March 1982, coup, and ruled until he was overthrown just over a year later.

Prosecutors say that while in power, Rios Montt was aware of, and thus responsible for, the slaughter of at least 1 771 Ixil Mayas in the towns of San Juan Cotzal, San Gaspar Chajul and Santa Maria Nebaj in Guatemala's western highlands.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...