Guatemalan militia men for 30 years for war crimes

MEXICO CITY – A top Guatemalan court has sentenced five former paramilitary members to 30 years in prison for raping several indigenous women in the early 1980s, during the nation’s bloody protracted civil war. .

The sentences were handed down on Monday after a weeklong trial resulted in convictions for crimes against humanity. The charges are based on the rape of five women at the hands of a pro-government militia against leftist rebels.

Judge Gervi Sical said: “There can be disproportionate violence against these women, who are treated like animals, sexually abused and sexually enslaved.” “The authorities, called upon to protect them, have forgotten their obligations as bailiffs and used physical and psychological force to the most extreme.”

The trial is the latest attempt by authorities and activists to seek justice for atrocities perpetrated during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. About 200,000 people were killed or missing. According to a United Nations-backed investigation, more than 80% of the victims were identified as indigenous Mayans.

“It is extremely important because we can take this sentence and say: we are vindifying ourselves in front of society and in front of our community. “Our voices were heard through five women, our truth was heard.”

In a landmark case in 2016Two former military members were convicted of crimes against humanity for raping indigenous women.

According to the plaintiffs in this most recent case, members of a group known as the Civil Defense Patrol, a paramilitary force set up by the Guatemalan military in the 1980s, arrived in the village of they are in the north of Guatemala, asking for information about their whereabouts. husbands they allege were members of a leftist guerrilla group.

Former members of the patrol then subjected the women to gang rape, torture and violent torture: one woman said she was sexually assaulted while seven months pregnant and had a miscarriage. .

“We are here, we are telling the truth,” Pedrina López de Paz, who was 12 years old when the abuse took place, told the court on Monday. “Everything that happens to our bodies still causes us pain.”

In addition to the five women at the center of the case, more than two dozen others said they were also victims of group members.

Regardless of the implications of Monday’s ruling, the only defendants are five men who perpetrated the physical abuse, not members of the military, who may have staged the things. this and many horrors happen during war.

That part of the case will be tried separately, Xiloj said, a process that could take months or even years.

“It gave me hope, but also fear,” Ms. Xiloj said of Monday’s sentencing. “Unfortunately, many of the acts that have been committed during the conflict will not get justice.”

Ms. Xiloj’s concerns are well-founded: Although Guatemala has held more trials for civil war abuses than most countries in the region, most architects of these atrocities avoided imprisonment. In 2013, a court Overturn the genocide sentence of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who died in 2018 while facing a retrial.

Monday’s results could help restore confidence in a struggling justice system. In recent years, successive Guatemalan governments have gradually severed judicial independence, impeded corruption investigations and publicly attacked top prosecutors.

“This trial has implications for the community, for survivors and victims – it has huge implications,” said Anita Isaacs, a professor of social sciences at Haverford University and an expert on Guatemala. . “But in the process what this means for progress, for the rule of law and for democracy, I will not overlook.”

Last year, Guatemala’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, was abruptly fired. strengthen graft investigation against President Alejandro Giammattei. The shooting was condemned by Washington and provoked nationwide protests.

The country’s attorney general, María Consuelo Porras, one of Mr. Giammattei’s close allies, later replaced Mr. Sandoval with a prosecutor, who was accused of mishandling an earlier case involving a case. to raise funds for former President Jimmy Morales.

With a replacement for Consuelo Porras to be chosen in the next few months, it is unlikely anyone in the country’s beleaguered justice system will be handling something as delicate as the trial of criminal cases, Consuelo Porras said. former military officer for the crimes committed during the war. Xiloj, lawyer.

As a result, bringing the second part of the case to trial, which will examine the military’s role in orchestrating the abuse, could take years, when many older perpetrators and their victims may not be alive.

“I don’t think anyone would risk supporting this case in the next few months because of what it means,” Ms. Xiloj said. “If at some point we are left without people to try, then I think it’s a pity that cases will be left without justice.” Guatemalan militia men for 30 years for war crimes

Fry Electronics Team

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