HRDAG Testimony in Guatemala Retrials

On March 2, 2018, Patrick Ball testified in the re-trial of General José Efraín Ríos Montt and the re-trial of chief of military intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez for the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Maya Ixil population.

The court proceedings took place in High Risk Court “B,” presided over by three judges.

HRDAG analysis presented by Patrick found that 5 percent of the indigenous Maya Ixil population was killed in a 15-month period (1982-83) during the internal armed conflict, or civil war, that took place from 1960 to 1996. During that same period, only .7 percent of the non-indigenous population was killed.

Ríos Montt died less than a month after the re-trial, in April 2018, and the court closed the case against him. In a split decision, Rodríguez Sánchez was acquitted in September, 2018. (The court explicitly found that the Army committed genocide, but that Rodríguez Sánchez was not in the chain of command and thus not guilty.)


Ríos Montt came to power in a military coup d’état on March 23, 1982 and was deposed 17 months later, on August 7, 1983. Human rights organizations estimate that 10,000 people were killed in the first three months of his government alone. During the first eight months of his government, more than 400 indigenous communities were destroyed. Rodríguez Sánchez served as Director of Military Intelligence (G-2) under Rios Montt.

On May 10, 2013, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court found Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 80 years in prison. It was the first time ever that a former head of state was found guilty of genocide in his own country. Rodríguéz Sánchez was also tried at that time but was acquitted. Ten days later, a Constitutional Court decision on May 20, 2013, resulted in the vacating of the conviction of Ríos Montt and the acquittal of Rodríguez Sánchez. The courts determined that the case would be retried. Ríos Montt was freed from prison and returned to house arrest; Rodríguez Sánchez, who had been freed, was returned to the military hospital. Re-trials were postponed several times before finally happening in 2018.

Coverage and social media

The Rodríguez Sánchez Genocide Retrial: Highlights of the Proceedings

The Guatemala Genocide Trial Resumes

Court Finds Guatemalan Army Committed Genocide, but Acquits Military Intelligence Chief

Here is social media coverage by colleague Jo-Marie Burt, Associate Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at George Mason University:

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