GUATEMALA CITY: The trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity will begin on March 19, five months earlier than planned, a lawyer said Wednesday.
The tribunal handling the case did not give any reason for moving up the start date, which had previously been set for August 14, Hector Reyes, a lawyer with the CALDH center for legal action on human rights matters, told AFP.
On January 28, Judge Miguel Galvez had issued the order "opening the trial against Jose Efrain Rios Montt for the crimes of genocide" and crimes against humanity.
Due to stand trial along with Rios Montt is retired general Jose Rodriguez, a former member of the military leadership.
Rios Montt, who has been under house arrest for a year, and Rodriguez are charged over the massacre of 1,771 Ixil Maya people in Quiche department while the former was in power between 1982 and 1983.
The strongman was known for his "scorched earth" campaign against people the government claimed were leftist rebels but were often in fact members of indigenous Maya communities who were not involved in the conflict.
The landmark decision to try Rios Montt marks the first time that genocide proceedings have been brought in the country over the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.
Rios Montt's time in power is considered among the most violent of the war.