Survivors of rape testified in the genocide trial against former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and his head of military intelligence. The historic trial is currently underway in Guatemala.
The accused are charged with overseeing mass sexual violence and other crimes against humanity from 1982 to 1983 in the “scorched earth” campaign that targeted Ixil Mayas during Guatemala’s long civil war.
With the assistance of interpreters, on April 3, 2013, the eighth day of the trial, 12 women recounted horrific acts of violence. The crimes often involved torture and repeated sexual assault of women and young girls.
The request for a closed hearing was denied, but accommodations were made for women to testify with their faces covered with rebozos (shawls). The press was forbidden to photograph victims’ faces or identify them by name. To show solidarity, other women in attendance appeared in the courtroom in rebozos that day.
One witness was cross-examined about why she did not file a report against a military official she named as the perpetrator of rape. She stated: “Where am I going to file a complaint? There was no justice, where was I going to go? We were threatened by the military.”
The witnesses are challenging the impunity of high-ranking officials for mass human rights violations. Asked at the end of their testimonies what they are seeking by participating in this trial, most have answered: justice from the state.
Follow the proceedings of The Trial of Efraín Ríos Montt & Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, a project of the Open Society Justice Initiative, at www.riosmontt-trial.org and on Twitter @RiosMonttTrial.
Guatemala Genocide Trial – Women Seeking the Truth, Association For Women’s Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), 12 April 2013.
Guatemala: Rios Montt trial hears testimony on conflict-era sexual violence, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 April 2013.
Authorities Must Guarantee Justice, Effective Protection Measures & Appropriate Reparations For Victims of the Genocide & Their Families During The Ríos Montt Trial, Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative, 2 April 2013.
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