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Guatemalan Judge Orders ex-President Tried for Genocide

Guatemala's former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt, left, smiles as he attends his hearing in Guatemala City, Jan. 28, 2013.
A Guatemalan judge has ordered former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt be tried for the genocide of nearly 2,000 indigenous Mayans in the early 1980s.

This is the first time a Latin American court has charged a former president with mass murder and crimes against humanity.

Rios Montt has been under house arrest since he lost re-election to the Guatemalan congress last year. He was immune from prosecution as a member of congress.

The 86-year-old former dictator is accused of being behind a so-called "scorched earth" policy in 1982 and 1983, when Guatemalan forces marched through Mayan villages and slaughtered women, children, and unarmed men. Many of the victims were raped or tortured.

Rios Montt and other top Guatemalan officials believed the Mayans were helping leftist guerrillas who were trying to topple the right-wing government.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 people were killed during the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, which finally ended in 1996.