United States, Guatemala: Two former members of military, Francisco Reyes Giron, the former commander of the Sepur Zarco military base and Heriberto Valdez Asij, a military commissioner were charged with sexual enslavement, rape and murder of a group of indigenous women. It is the first successful prosecution for sexual violence during Guatemala’s armed conflict.
There were jubilant scenes in court with people cheering and applauding the victims when the judge finished reading out the sentence. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, “This is historic, it is a great step for women and above all for the victims”. Rigoberta Menchu also attended the hearing. The retired officer, Francisco Reyes Giron, was found guilty of holding 15 women in sexual and domestic slavery and for killing one woman and her two daughters.
Heriberto Valdez Asij, a paramilitary who carried out commissions for the army, was convicted for the same enslavement, as well as the forced disappearance of seven men. The court had heard harrowing details about what went on at the former Sepur Zarco military base in the eastern highlands during the 1980s. According to the prosecution, in 1982 armed forces repeatedly attacked the village of Sepur Zarco and killed or took away Mayan Quiche leaders who had been applying for land titles and had angered local landowners.
The men were accused of being associated with left-wing guerrillas.Agustin Chen, one of the men who survived said the soldiers took him to a cell and beat him every day. “They killed seven people, throwing two grenades into the pit where they had put them.” The court heard how military commanders considered Quiche women to be “available” without their men and had then taken them into sexual and domestic slavery. They were required to report every third day to the base for “shifts” during which they were raped, sexually abused, and forced to cook and clean for the soldiers.