Rachel Vincent, Director of Communications, is currently in Guatemala alongside Nobel laureates Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchú Tum to witness the Sepur Zarco trial and stand in solidarity with the women survivors calling for justice.
We started our day at the Supreme Court in Guatemala City. The sight of the 14 women sitting behind their team of lawyers, with their heads covered and their feet (in many cases) not touching the ground, was profoundly moving. The sight of the 14 women immediately reminded me of the women in eastern Congo that we met, and that are featured in Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out. Longtime Guatemalan peace activist Luz Méndez joined us for the morning and we discussed how absurd it is that a few meters away from the women, the two perpetrators – former base commander Esteelmer Reyes Girón and former regional military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij – sit scowling and slouching in an intimidating fashion. Yet it is the women who must hide their heads to avoid more tragic and horrific violence.
Judge Yassmin Barrios is presiding over the trial and she was the picture of calm and control that you would expect from her. Impressive, and steady in her guidance of the process. The defense team consists of three lawyers (one woman, two men). We heard testimony from their witnesses, military men, and from two witnesses from the prosecution on videotape. The two witnesses brought forth by the prosecution are two Mayan men who were tortured and were witness to the lives of the women who were going back and forth to the military camp as sexual and domestic slaves. Two members of the Alianza Rompiendo El Silencio sit at the prosecution table — one serves as a lawyer, and the other as support to the survivors.
This may well be the last week of the trial. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.