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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – A Guatemalan judge on Monday ordered two high-ranking former generals to stand trial for genocide four decades ago, as the Central American country grapples with past massacres of people mostly indigenous during a brutal civil war.

In his ruling, Judge Miguel Angel Galvez cleared the trial on charges that the two former generals – Manuel Benedicto Lucas and Manuel Antonio Callejas – allegedly committed genocide, crimes against humanity and forced kidnappings from 1978 to 1982 in a case where more than 1,700 people were killed in 31 separate massacres. The killings took place in the Quiche region in the north of the country, home to many indigenous Mayans.

Lucas was the third military officer at the time of the alleged crimes, as well as the brother of then-president Romeo Lucas, while Callejas was in charge of national intelligence.

Neither man could be immediately reached to comment on the judge’s order.

Lucas and Callejas, both aged 85, have been held since 2016 in so-called preventive detention in a military medical center in the Guatemalan capital.

In June, Judge Galvez separately indicted six other former military personnel for their alleged involvement in the death and enforced disappearance of at least 183 civilians during the 36-year civil war.

The war, which ended with peace accords in 1996, is believed to have claimed more than 200,000 lives and 45,000 other people missing.

Relatively few people have been tried for crimes committed during the war, and a United Nations-backed commission said the military committed the majority of the atrocities of the war.

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