A Guatemalan court has sentenced a former soldier to more than 5,000 years in prison for the massacre of 171 people in what is considered one of the worst atrocities in that country’s 36-year civil war.
Prosecutors said the soldier, Santos López Alonzo, 66, who is accused of belonging to an elite squad known as the Kaibiles, had participated in the killings of nearly all of the men, women and children in the farming village of Dos Erres on Dec. 7, 1982, according to Reuters.
Mr. López was sentenced on Wednesday after being deported from the United States in 2016 to face the Guatemalan court, where he was found “responsible as author” of the killings, according to news reports.
He was sentenced to 30 years for crimes against humanity and an additional 30 years for each of the 171 victims, although the sentences are symbolic as the maximum someone can serve in Guatemala is 50 years.
He was also accused of kidnapping and adopting a 5-year-old boy, Ramiro Osorio Cristales, whose family was killed in the massacre. Mr. Osorio was one of those who testified at Mr. López’s trial, according to Sky News, the British broadcaster.
Mr. López was accused of being part of the elite Special Patrol of Kaibiles that was sent to Dos Erres to find members of a guerrilla group that had ambushed a military convoy.
When the patrol failed to find the guerrillas or guns, they pulled villagers from their homes and raped many girls, according to prosecutors. To cover up the rapes, they killed nearly everyone living there.
The massacre was carried out during the regime of Efraín Ríos Montt, the dictator who ruled Guatemala during one of the bloodiest periods of its long civil war and was later convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.
According to a United Nations truth commission, about 200,000 people were killed and an additional 45,000 disappeared during the conflict, which lasted from 1960 to1996. Most were killed by the army, though some were killed by leftist guerrillas.