Achí Women’s case ends in 30-year prison sentences

Quorum put out a short briefing on the Achí Women case, its background and why it’s important.

Errors in translation are mine.

The internal armed conflict savagely hit Guatemala for 36 years, especially women who, in many cases, were considered spoils of war between soldiers, guerrillas and civilians. Now a group of Achí women wishes to leave a legacy of justice for the girls and young women of the country.

One day the Achí women broke the silence and began to tell their stories.

Pedrina López, Juana García and Feliciana de Paz are some of the women who, in recent weeks, have been able to recount in court the horrors they experienced during the internal conflict.

They also listened to the witnesses and the five men accused of raping them, torturing them and disappearing their relatives between 1981 and 1983.

The legal process, which began in 2011, ends today with a historic sentence, which leaves a bittersweet taste for the Achí women. “Justice was done, but the pain continues in our bodies,” says Pedrina López.

What happened?

The High Risk Court ‘A’, headed by Judge Yassmín Barrios, this afternoon sentenced 5 men, former patrol members of the Civil Self-Defense Forces (ex-PAC), for sexually abusing and enslaving several women of the Mayan Achi ethnic group during the internal armed conflict.

Who are the ex-PAC?

Military governments created civil self-defense patrols starting in 1981. They were paramilitary groups which allowed them to expand their military power.

For this, they recruited civilians forced to do military service with the excuse of defending the population from the guerrilla threat.

A bit of context

During the dictatorships of Romeo Lucas García (1978-1982) and Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983), governments militarized rural areas to confront guerrilla groups. This involved the recruitment of patrolmen and the creation of military detachments.

Around the military detachment of Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, at least 36 women, between 12 and 53 years old, were victims of sexual abuse and other attacks. Today they are survivors demanding justice.

Those convicted

The judges found guilty for crimes against humanity:

Bembenuto Ruíz Aquino

Bernardo Ruíz Aquino

Damián Cuxum Alvarado

Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado

Francisco Cuxum Alvarado

In addition to prison sentences, remedial measures could be requested for the women.

Why is sentencing important?

Most crimes committed during the internal conflict remain unpunished, but the demand for justice for women survivors of violence has been less heard than for men.

Expert reports and studies indicate that women and girls were subjected to aggression and torture that men did not undergo – little by little their stories are being known.

The case of the Achí women sets a second precedent for these crimes to be investigated. The first was that of the women of Sepur Zarco, who obtained a conviction against two high-ranking military veterans.

You can read the original, in Spanish, here, Caso Mujeres Achí termina en condenas de 30 años de prisión.

You can read more on the reparations, here, Achi Women – Remedial Measures and UN Statement, and you can read more on the Sepur Zarco case, here, Sepur Zarco – Guilty Verdict, and here, very movingly, ‘I Am Here Seeking Justice’.

Categories: Femicide, Gender, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Legal, Military, Solidarity in Action/Guatemala, Violence

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