A Guatemalan court postponed deciding on whether former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was fit to stand trial, a few hours after his lawyers handed in a medical report claiming the former dictator suffered from dementia.
The court decision will be postponed until Aug. 25, stated Judge Maria Eugenia Castellanos. The ruling followed six-hours of testimony from four doctors who confirmed that the 89-year-old retired general suffered from dementia.
However, none of the doctors took a stance on whether Rios Montt was mentally fit to confront a new trial, as ordered by the court. The public ministry requested the appointment of a legal advocate to represent Rios Montt, while the lawsuit against his former head of intelligence services José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez will be treated separately.
Prosecution: #RíosMontt shld be appointed representative to continue retrial. Case vs. Rodriguez Sanchez shld be tried separately.— NISGUA (@NISGUA_Guate) agosto 18, 2015
In May 2013, Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for the thousands of human rights abuses committed during his 1980s dictatorship, but the historic verdict and accompanying 80-year prison sentence were overturned just 10 days later, purportedly due to errors in the judicial process.
During the trial, almost 100 witnesses testified over counts of rape, infanticide and the destruction of crops to induce starvation.
Rios Montt's defense team has deliberately delayed the case to prevent their client from again standing trial for charges of genocide. The retrial was intended to begin in January, but a series of procedural setbacks and defense tactics have stalled the process.
Rios Montt's military regime carried out a scorched earth campaign, largely against the country’s Indigenous population, marking one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala's 36-year civil war. The former despot is accused of killing at least 1,771 Guatemalans, committing 1,400 human rights violations, and displacing tens of thousands of Indigenous people.
Human rights defenders have voiced concern over the repeated postponement of the trials, stressing the urgent need for the thousands of victims of civil war and genocidal violence to see justice.