The International Justice Monitor – latest

The International Justice Monitor (a project of the Open Society Justice Initiative) keeps a watchful eye on the justice system in Guatemala.

Here is a short summary of their latest posts, all written by Sophie Beaudoin.

Sepur Zarco Trial to Start in February
Guatemala’s high-risk court A announced last week that the opening of the landmark Sepur Zarco trial will begin on February 1st, 2016, earlier than previously scheduled. The case against two defendants relates to enforced disappearances, mass sexual violence, and sexual slavery committed at the former Sepur Zarco military base during Guatemala’s 36-year conflict. The case will be the first in which a Guatemalan court considers a case of sexual violence as an international crime, and the first time anywhere that a domestic court has weighed charges of sexual slavery.

The trial had previously been scheduled to start on April 11, 2016 but has now been moved up, although no reason has been given for the earlier start date. High-risk court A will hear the case.

Sepur Zarco is a small hamlet located in eastern Guatemala. According to the prosecution, armed forces repeatedly attacked the small village in 1982 and killed or forcibly disappeared Mayan Q’eqchi’ leaders, who had sought land title from the state, provoking the anger of rich landowners who accused them of being associated with the guerrillas. Military forces considered Q’eqchi’ women to be “available” and systematically subjected them to sexual and domestic slavery. They were required to report every third day to the Sepur Zarco military installation for “shifts” during which they were raped, sexually abused, and forced to cook and clean for the soldiers. After this initial period, soldiers reportedly continued to rape the women when they went to fetch water and forced them to work at the military installation. For some victims, the situation lasted as long as six years until the closure of the military installation in 1988.

You can read the full piece here.

Impunity Still the Rule for Grave Crimes Committed during Guatemala’s Civil War
This year has seen astonishing developments in the rule of law in Guatemala. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), together with the Attorney General’s Office, has uncovered various alleged criminal networks working within state institutions and siphoning off the country’s revenues. Joint investigations by CICIG and the Attorney General’s Office have reached the highest levels. In a clear example that no one is above the law, former President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti are currently in jail, awaiting trial on corruption charges.

However, 2015 has seen remarkably little progress on cases related to grave crimes committed during Guatemala’s internal conflict, for which impunity still seems to be the rule. So far this year, no new case related to conflict-related crimes has been presented in the courts.

You can read the full piece here.

Guatemala Opens a New Court to Hear Cases Related to Grave Crimes
On October 28th, Guatemala’s judiciary opened a third high-risk court, called group C, which includes a preliminary proceedings judge and a three-judge trial chamber. This new court will be in charge of overseeing complex criminal cases, including cases related to grave crimes committed during the country’s 36-year long internal conflict. The development of the new chamber, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will allow some grave crimes cases to proceed to court more quickly than previously scheduled.

High-risk courts were first established in Guatemala in 2009 to ensure the personal safety of judicial actors involved in cases related to grave crimes, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and witnesses, and thus protect judicial independence. The cases overseen by these courts are related to the alleged commission of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, grave and complex corruption crimes, and drug trafficking, amongst others.

You can read the full piece here.

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Categories: Justice, Military, Solidarity in Action

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