REPORTING FROM SAN SALVADOR -- Efrain Rios Montt, the former dictator of Guatemala who oversaw one of the nation's bloodiest periods, will stand trial on genocide charges and other crimes stemming from a 36-year civil war.
A Guatemalan judge ruled Thursday night that Rios Montt, now 85, will be confined to house arrest while the investigation and judicial proceedings run their course (link in Spanish, with video).
Judge Carol Patricia Lopez determined that Rios Montt and other top military leaders bore ultimate responsibility for acts that troops "were committing against the unarmed, helpless noncombatant civilian population, which meant multiple human rights violations, deaths, disappearances and sexual abuse, and persecution of the Mayan Ixil ethnic group."
The rulings came in a daylong hearing in a Guatemala City courthouse crowded with survivors and relatives of those killed during Rios Montt's rule in 1982-83. He had little to say, telling the judge he chose to "remain silent." In the past, he has maintained that all that happened was in the context of war.
An estimated 200,000 people were killed or went missing in the conflict, the majority indigenous men, women and children.
-- Alex Renderos
Photo: Relatives of massacre victims from the Mayan Ixil ethnic group gather in a Guatemala City courthouse on Thursday to hear charges against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt. Credit: Moises Castillo / Associated Press.