Rios Montt Hearing Delayed Once Again

Today a ruling was expected as to whether the former general is fit to face another trial, but no decision was reached.

At a previous hearing, the court ruled that Rios Montt should be sent to the Federico Mora psychiatric hospital for another round of medical tests. Further tests were ordered after potential evidence of malpractice was discovered related to the diagnosis and medication prescribed by a medical team.

Further medical tests performed at private facility

The facility is the only public mental health institution in Guatemala, and its reputation precedes it. In fact, rumors of the squalid conditions provoked a BBC investigation last year, with shocking results.

Although Rios Montt was to be sent to a special unit, isolated from the rest of the patients, his lawyers successfully demanded that the tests be carried out at Los Pinos, a private medical facility.

The second round of tests were supposed to be carried out under impartial conditions in order to allow the court to pass judgment on whether Rios Montt’s trial for genocide would go ahead.

Medical experts present findings to court

Ten expert witnesses were called before the court today in order to present their conclusions. The court heard that Rios Montt is suffering from vascular dementia, which can be caused by a series of small strokes.

Interestingly, one expert told the court that the defendant had been misdiagnosed and prescribed a combination of drugs which may have induced periods of delirium. Could this have been a deliberate strategy to ensure that Rios Montt was unfit to face trial? We may never know.

Rios Montt may not face trial due to vascular dementia diagnosis

As a result of the evidence presented by the medical experts, the defense asked the court to end the legal process against their client and allow him to remain in the care of his family without any judicial supervision. Their main argument that the stress of a trial may provoke his death was corroborated by a cardiologist.

The prosecution countered with the argument that a member of Rios Montt’s family or legal team should be made to face the charges on his behalf, and that his trial should be separated from that of former head of intelligence J0se Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez.

Hearing postponed until next week

As prosecution lawyer Édgar Pérez said: “Age may have got the better of General Rios M0ntt, but we cannot forget the victims.”

After initially announcing an hour’s recession to consider her decision, the judge decided that the hearing would be postponed until next Tuesday 25 August at 9.00 a.m.

Although medical evidence suggests that Rios Montt himself may not have to face trial, it would be no surprise to hear of injunctions and other legal maneuvering taking place before next Tuesday’s hearing.