The Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú participates in the demonstration of Guatemalan Achí women, victims of sexual violence during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996), at the beginning of the trial against five former Guatemalan civil patrols (PAC), outside the Palace of Justice in Guatemala City on January 4, 2022.
Photo: JOHAN ORDONEZ
The trial of five Guatemalan ex-paramilitaries for sexual violence against 36 indigenous Mayan women in the 1980s during the war (1960-1996) began this Wednesday after delays in a court in the capital.
The defendants are former members of the Civil Self-Defense Patrols (PAC), who attended via videoconference from the Mariscal Zavala prison, where they are being held. The events would have occurred between 1981 and 1985 in the municipality of Rabinal, north of the Guatemalan capital. The accused are Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado, Francisco Cuxum Alvarado, Damaín Cuxum Alvarado, Bernardo Ruiz Aquino and Bembenuto Ruiz Aquino.
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The lawsuit began a decade ago when 11 women reported the abuse to justice. Then other victims were added for a total of 36 plaintiffs, lawyer Lucía Xiloj, who supports their cause, told reporters.
At the beginning of the debate, Guatemalan judge Jazmín Barrios denied a request by the defense of three of the defendants, who argued that the crimes in question had already prescribed. The judge, widely awarded abroad for her performance in previous judicial processes, explained that serious crimes against human rights do not prescribe according to local laws and international agreements.
On Tuesday, one of the women victims of the patrols demanded the punishment of the accused during a small sit-in on the outskirts of the Guatemalan Judicial Organism.
“We, the women survivors of rape in the armed conflict, have found the courage to tell what happened to us so that in this society these inhuman acts against men and especially against women never happen again,” reads a released statement. by the organization Impunity Watch Guatemala. “The shame is for those who did it,” he added.
In the oral and public debate, the experts exposed the counterinsurgency strategy used by the paramilitaries and soldiers during the armed conflict to demonstrate the abuse suffered by the Mayan population. Xiloj described the events as aberrant because many women “were violated after the (forced) disappearance of their husbands” by former paramilitaries and soldiers.
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For representatives of the Rabinal Law Firm Association, accompanying the case, the opening of the trial gives hope to the struggle of these women and other victims of the civil war that bloodied this country for 36 years.
The 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchú, who attended on Tuesday, said that this case is a challenge for the State because “it did not fulfill its obligation to defend these sisters who were raped, tortured, humiliated and subjected to violence. (sexual) slavery for so many years of the armed conflict ”.
Rabinal was one of the worst hit towns during the war and a mass grave with more than 3,000 victims was located there. A UN Truth Commission, which investigated war crimes in Guatemala, documented 669 massacres and assured that 93% of the violations were committed by state apparatuses.
The PACs and the figure of the military commissioner that were instruments of repression during the war were dissolved with the signing of the agreements in 1996, which ended the conflict that left some 200,000 dead or missing.
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The trial against former paramilitaries for sexual abuse of indigenous people in Guatemala begins