On Thursday, Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s former military dictator, was ordered to stand trial on charges of genocide. Pamela Yates, director the upcoming POV film Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, filed this report from Guatemala via cell phone.

A Dictator in the Dock:

A culmination of decades of work by the victims and survivors of the Guatemalan genocide forced former Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt to appear in court Thursday for a hearing to decide whether there was enough evidence to take him to trial on charges of genocide.

The prosecution spent hours presenting overwhelming evidence in the form of military documents, exhumation reports and photos linking Ríos Montt directly to hundreds of deaths and disappearances. Surviving family members, Ixil Maya in traditional dress, crowded the standing-room-only courtroom in stunned silence. Some wept.

Outside the Justice Palace, in an open area now named Human Rights Plaza, hundreds more watched the proceedings on a huge screen.

The defense’s case asserted that Ríos Montt did not command his Army officers’ counterinsurgency campaign and should not be held responsible.

But after hours deliberating, the judge ruled to prosecute Ríos Montt on charges of genocide, and to place him under house arrest with a $65,000 bail set.

The crowd broke out in cheers and sent firecrackers into the air in loud celebration.

This is a huge victory for the victims and survivors of the Guatemalan genocide, human rights defenders and the lawyers’ efforts worldwide.

In an exclusive clip below from the 2012 POV film Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, director Pamela Yates plays an excerpt from her 1983 film When the Mountains Tremble, in which Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt makes a potentially damning claim.

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator will air later in 2012 on POV.

Published by

Pamela Yates is the director of the 2012 POV film Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. She is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship, director of the Sundance Award-winning When the Mountains Tremble, the producer of the Emmy Award-winning Loss of Innocence and the executive producer of the Academy Award-winning Witness to War.