Judge steps down in Guatemala genocide trial

The judge overseeing the Efrain Rios Montt genocide case stepped down this week after the defense lawyer lodged a complaint of judicial bias, writes guest blogger Mike Allison.

Moises Castillo/AP
Guatemala's former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, center, attends his hearing in Guatemala City, Feb. 21. A Guatemalan judge overseeing the genocide case of Rios Montt stepped down Tuesday, accepting a defense request. The removal stemmed from a complaint filed in November by defense lawyers of a general also involved in the case who accused the judge of being biased.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, centralamericanpolitics.blogspot.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

Carol Patricia Flores stepped down as the judge overseeing Efrain Rios Montt's genocide case (in Spanish), report the AP and Presna Libre.
The removal stemmed from a complaint filed by Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes' defense lawyers in November. Lopez was the army chief of staff under Rios Montt. His lawyers accused the judge of being biased against Lopez.

The judge was about to convoke a hearing to determine whether charges against Rios Montt should be dropped because of the amnesty law passed back in the 1980s shortly before the return to civilian rule. The new judge, Miguel Angel Galvez, postponed Tuesday's hearing until March 1st but did say that the charges against Rios Montt as well as the conditions of his bail and house arrest, remain in place.
I would have preferred that Carol Patricia Flores had stayed on in the case. It's a little too early to see this as an ominous sign of things to come, but if there's one place where I was worried where we would see a reversal under a Perez Molina administration, it would be in the area of prosecuting human rights violators.
 I'm not saying that he has directly influenced the court's decision in any way. However, one can expect judges and lawyers to approach their jobs somewhat differently when working under a president who denies that genocide or crimes against humanity occurred than when one operates under a president who apologizes for crimes of the state.

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