Guatemalan war-time sex slaves have their day in court

03 February 2016 by Louisa Reynolds, Guatemala City (Guatemala)

Guatemala this week started the landmark trial of two former military officers who face charges of sexual and domestic slavery and forced disappearances. This marks the first time – ever and anywhere – that a national court will hear charges of sexual slavery committed during an armed conflict.

 

Judge Yassmin Barrios presiding the Sepur Zarco trial in Guatemala (Photo: Twitter/@usembassyguate)
Image caption: 
Judge Yassmin Barrios presiding the Sepur Zarco trial in Guatemala (Photo: Twitter/@usembassyguate)

The country took another important step towards securing justice for the victims of the civil war with the arrest last month of 18 former military officers on charges related to massacres and disappearances during the 1980s, the bloodiest phase of the conflict. But despite these signs that justice is gradually moving forward, the retrial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt [IJT-184] on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity faced yet another setback after it was suspended again for the court to resolve outstanding legal petitions.

Over three decades after they were forced to cook, clean and submit to systematic rape by soldiers from a nearby military outpost, 11 Mayan Q’eqchí women from the tiny hamlet of Sepur Zarco, in the eastern department of Izabal, came face to face this Monday with the two men who ordered their enslavement: former base commander Esteelmer Reyes Girón and former regional military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij.

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