Oscar Lopez and Jody García write, in the New York Times, about the Achi Women Case and the sentences handed down within the context of a corrupt judiciary and the likelihood of real justice being denied as time moves on.
A top Guatemalan court has sentenced five former paramilitary members to 30 years in prison for the rape of several Indigenous women in the early 1980s, during the nation’s long, bloody civil war.
The sentences were handed down on Monday following a weeks long trial that resulted in convictions for crimes against humanity. The charges were based on the rape of five women at the hands of a pro-government militia fighting leftist rebels.
“It has been possible to establish disproportionate violence against these women, who were treated like animals, sexually violated and subjected to sexual slavery,” Judge Gervi Sical said during the sentencing hearing. “The authorities, called upon to protect them, forgot their obligation as guarantors and used physical and psychological force to its greatest extremes.”
The trial is the latest attempt by authorities and activists to seek justice for the atrocities committed during the 36-year civil war in Guatemala, which ended in 1996, during which some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared. According to a United Nations-backed inquiry, more than 80 percent of identified victims were Indigenous Maya.
“It’s extremely important because we’re going to be able to take this sentence and say: we are vindicating ourselves before society and before our communities,” said Lucia Xiloj, an Indigenous lawyer who represented several of the plaintiffs in the case. “Our voice was heard through the five women, our truth was heard.”
Despite the significance of Monday’s ruling, the only defendants were the five men who physically carried out the abuse, and not the members of the military who may have orchestrated these and many of the horrors that took place during the war.
As a result, bringing the second part of the case to trial, which would examine the role of the military in orchestrating the abuse, could take years, by which time many of the elderly perpetrators and their victims may no longer be alive.
You can read the full piece, with links, here Guatemala Sentences Former Fighters to 30 Years in Prison for Rape.