2 Found Guilty in Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Slavery Case

On Friday, February 26, 2016 Judge Jassmin Barrios read a summary of the verdict in the historic case of sexual and domestic slavery against Maya Q´eqchi´ women in 1982-83.

The Guatemalan court found both Colonel Esteelmer Reyes and Military Commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij GUILTY of Crimes Against Humanity for abuses that include sexual violence, sexual slavery, domestic slavery, and cruel and degrading treatment, and sentenced them to 30 years in prison.

Additionally, the court found Reyes guilty on murder charges, adding 90 years to his sentence, 30 years for each of 3 victims. The court also found Asij guilty of enforced disappearance, adding 210 years to his sentence, 30 years for each of 7 men. In the parallel civil process for economic reparation, the men were ordered to pay indemnization to the victims and their families.

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The trial took place over four intense week of testimony of survivors and expert witnesses, who detailed the pattern of military operations in the area, and the lasting impacts of the violence suffered by the women.

“The day of the sentence was so important for justice in Guatemala,” said Dania Rodriguez, GHRC’s representative in Guatemala who observed much of the trial. “The verdict was to be read at 4pm, but some people began waiting in line hours before to ensure they could be present in the courtroom.”

As Judge Barrios read the sentence, a palpable silence fell over the crowded room. She detailed the violence the women suffered, reiterating their innocence, and explaining the evidence that confirmed the command responsibility of the two accused.

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“This isn’t only about the victims,” the sentence concludes, “but about all of society. These acts should not be repeated.”

When the judge finished reading, a moment of silence hung in air, before the room erupted in applause, and chants of “Justice.”

“We all felt the gravity of the moment, the long-awaited response of the justice system for these brave women,” said Rodriguez.

The following week, on March 2, the court heard arguments for reparations. Colonel Reyes was ordered to pay a total of 5.5 million Quetzales ($732,700 USD) to the 11 women. Military Commissioner Valdez Asij was ordered to pay a total of 1.7 million Quetzales ($226,500 USD) to the families of the 7 men who were disappeared.

The court also ordered the sentence be translated into 24 Mayan languages, that information about the case be included in school curricula, that monuments be built to honor the women who suffered sexual violence by the army, and that the Defense Ministry give trainings on human rights and violence against women.

GHRC celebrates this important ruling and reiterates our solidarity with the brave women who came forward to tell their testimonies.

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Presente! T-Shirt Campaign: Order your shirts now!

GHRC is partnering with the School of the Americas Watch to promote a t-shirt campaign in support of the movement for justice and self determination in the Americas. Our goal is to sell 300 t-Shirts by Thursday, May 21.

Click here to order your limited edition t-shirt now!

tshirtcampaignGHRC100% of profits will benefit campaigns against militarization, and for a more peaceful world. The sweatshop-free shirts are being hand printed with inks that are easy on the environment. The design by César Maxit shows Ingrid Carillo, holding a picture of her relative, who was forcibly disappeared by SOA-trained security forces. The image is based on a photo by Linda Panetta, taken at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.

The word Presente! means “here” or “present” in Spanish. It is used at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia, when we remember those who were martyred by state security forces. We pronounce their names and bring their spirits before us as we respond: Presente! You are here with us, and you are not forgotten.

To take a look at the shirt and to place your order, visit SOA Watch’s website now.