Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guatemalan Army excesses on trial

Victims of sexual violence cover their faces as they listen to an interpreter, left, on the first day of hearings for a trial against a former military officer and former paramilitary fighter accused of sexual violence during Guatemala's civil war in Guatemala City, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016.
Two retired soldiers, Steelmer Francisco Reyes Giron, a 58 year old retired colonel and Heriberto Valdez Azig, a 74 year old former paramilitary, were in court Monday, February 1, 2016, facing charges of murder, forced disappearance of 20 persons, and forcing 15 indigenous women into sexual slavery during Guatemala's civil war. Only 11 of the 15 victims appeared in the courtroom. The defendants are charged with "authorizing and consenting for soldiers under his command to exercise sexual violence and inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment against Maya-Q'eqchi' women." The Mayan women covered their faces and heads and told the court of their suffering as sexual slaves. Other women in the courtroom, in solidarity with the victims, also covered their faces.

The two allegedly carried out the crimes during the period 1982-86 when the military was deployed in Sepur Zarco, a town in the north east of Guatemala. The trial is considered historic since it is the first time that a local tribunal is trying members of the military for such serious crimes.

Guatemala experienced for 26 years a war between the military and the leftist guerrilla. According to the United Nations 245,000 persons were killed or disappeared during the armed conflict.

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