Deterring Atrocities

To the Editor:

Re “Former Leader of Guatemala Is Guilty of Genocide Against Mayan Group” (news article, May 11):

The landmark conviction by a Guatemalan court of Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator, for genocide should warn that leaders of violent groups and even heads of state are accountable to law. Illegal use of armed force that is not in self-defense and kills large numbers of innocent people should be condemned by national courts everywhere as crimes against humanity.

If states are unwilling or unable to end existing immunities, the International Criminal Court in The Hague should intervene. Such atrocities must be deterred as we move toward a more humane world.

Benjamin B. Ferencz
New Rochelle, N.Y., May 11, 2013
The writer was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II.

A version of this letter appeared in print on May 14, 2013, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Deterring Atrocities.