The Dictator in the Dock short film series brings viewers into the courtroom as former dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt stands trial for genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala. This historic case marked the first time, anywhere in the world, that a former head of state was tried for genocide in a national court, in the country where the crimes were committed. It is also the first time in the history of South or North America, that the genocide of indigenous peoples was tried in a court of law, significantly in a country of the Americas with a majority indigenous population.
As Francisco Soto, legal representative of the Maya victims, said in his concluding statement at the trial, “Justice is poised to play an important role in the historical memory of our country. For the first time in 500 years we are able to judge genocide.” The symbolic and precedent setting nature of this trial for all indigenous peoples and all national justice systems cannot be overestimated.
Skylight filmed the entire genocide trial of Ríos Montt from the day it started on March 19, 2013 to its conclusion on May 10, 2013, capturing the high-stakes drama of a reckoning with heinous crimes, an unveiling of impunity, and a nation’s struggle to reconcile with a legacy of mass atrocities.