Guatemala Metropolis – Indigenous Maya Achi girls who mentioned they have been raped by paramilitary group members throughout Guatemala’s 36-year civil warfare suffered a significant setback Friday of their practically decade-long quest for justice.

After the prosecution’s testimonies, witness statements, documentation and stories, a choose dominated there was inadequate proof to ship six former PAC paramilitary patrol members to trial for crimes towards humanity for wartime sexual violence towards 36 Maya Achi girls.

Three of the six have been acquitted Friday. The opposite three may also be launched, however choose Claudette Dominguez gave prosecutors a month to current additional proof and can maintain a listening to August 5 to find out whether or not or not they are going to be acquitted or whether or not the case will proceed to trial.

“I can not converse,” Paulina Ixpata advised Al Jazeera after the ruling. 

Ixpata and the opposite survivors left the courtroom constructing and sought shelter from the pouring rain beneath an overhang, the place they mentioned the ruling in Achi, her first language. Lots of the girls converse little or no Spanish, and no interpretation was offered by the courtroom.

One of many girls’s attorneys defined the end result, as a mix of grief, frustration and resignation settled in. Earlier within the day, they’d expressed cautious optimism concerning the consequence of the listening to.

“What we would like is justice,” Ixpata advised Al Jazeera following a ceremony Friday morning exterior the Guatemala Metropolis tribunal complicated.


Achi Mayan survivors collect exterior the Supreme Court docket forward of the listening to on June 21 for a ceremony in commemoration of the Nationwide Day of Compelled Disappearance [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]  

In the course of the 1960-1996 civil warfare between the military and leftist guerrilla forces, an estimated 200,000 folks have been killed. Most have been indigenous Maya civilians and the military was liable for greater than 90 % of atrocities, in accordance with a UN-backed fact fee.

The state carried out acts of genocide in 4 areas, together with the Maya Achi area, the reality fee concluded. Indigenous girls across the nation have been more and more pushing for justice for the rape as a weapon of warfare within the context of genocide. 

“We skilled it first-hand,” mentioned Ixpata.

In 2010, Ixpata and different Maya Achi girls from villages within the Rabinal municipality, 100km north of Guatemala, started organising collectively and reached out to the Asociacion Bufete Juridico Standard, an indigenous-led human rights legislation agency in Rabinal. Collectively they offered the case the next 12 months to the native public prosecutor’s workplace, however it was stalled.

“With regards to crimes throughout the armed battle, prosecutors are sometimes scared and don’t want them to maneuver ahead,” Gloria Elvira Reyes, one of many attorneys representing the ladies, advised Al Jazeera.

‘This case shouldn’t be over’

Within the early 1980s, PAC members within the space working beneath army command raped Maya Achi girls and ladies, in accordance with survivors and prosecutors, who additionally mentioned many have been held for weeks and assaulted by a number of perpetrators inside army amenities. Some have been ladies beneath the age of 13.

Reyes and her colleagues finally bought the case transferred to the Workplace of the Particular Prosecutor for Human Rights in Guatemala Metropolis. In 2015, prosecutors started gathering sworn testimonies and progressively superior of their investigation. 

In 2018, a choose issued 10 arrest warrants for 10 ex-PAC members. Six have been apprehended in Might 2018, a seventh was apprehended in August, however one died later that month. One other was arrested two months in the past within the US, and the opposite two stay fugitives.

“They killed our members of the family too,” Ixpata mentioned of the military and the PAC. “Many have been massacred and disappeared.”

In 1982, 12 of Ixpata’s shut kin have been killed in a bloodbath in a close-by municipality. The victims included three of her siblings, and 6 younger nieces and nephews, together with a nine-month-old child. Ixpata was 18 years outdated on the time.

The 12 months earlier than, in 1981, Ixpata’s brother Tereso was detained and disappeared by safety forces on his method from the village to work in close by farmland.

“We’ve carried out a lot looking and given DNA samples,” mentioned Ixpata. “However he has by no means been discovered.”

The listening to on Friday coincided with Guatemala’s Nationwide Day of Compelled Disappearance. An estimated 45,000 males, girls and kids have been disappeared throughout the battle. Investigations and exhumations proceed.

The Maya Achi girls’s seek for justice may also proceed. Plans are already within the works to enchantment the choose’s rulings, Reyes advised Al Jazeera exterior the courtroom.

“I’m annoyed and I’m offended. However getting offended would not actually get us wherever,” Reyes mentioned.

“I advised the ladies to not be too unhappy. This case shouldn’t be over,” she added.

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