Historic verdict in case of police officer accused of raping a woman in custody.
On 16 April this year something unprecedented happened in in El Quiche: a police officer was convicted of raping and abusing a woman held in custody. This is the first time that this has happened, even though a study carried out by the Institute of Comparative Studies in Penal Science (ICCPG in Spanish) estimated that up to 75% of women in custody suffer some kind of abuse and of those 43% report it.
Juana Mendez, a Quiche woman from Nebaj was taken into custody on 17 January 2005 following the discovery of a poppy plantation near her home. No charges were ever brought in relation to the poppies, but she was held overnight in the police station during which time she was subjected to sexual abuse and rape at the hands of drunken police officers supposedly there to look after her. In a final humiliation she was made to walk naked in front of other prisoners and to wash away evidence.
Juana Mendez denounced what had happened in court the following morning, and, after three years of the usual dilatory process which afflicts any case involving human rights she eventually got her day in court. In the meantime one of the two accused went on the run, and there were threats against Dona Juana, as she became known, and the ICCPG which has supported her all along. In the end everyone’s persistence and fortitude was all worth it as a conviction was secured.
You can read the background of the case here, from the Accompaniment Coordination in Guatemala who have accompanied Dona Juana and ICCPG for over a year. A news item on the verdict is here and a longer article here.