Guatemala: harsh terms for crimes against humanity

A retired lieutenant colonel and a former paramilitary were sentenced to 120 years and 240 years in prison, respectively, for sexual slavery and other crimes against humanity during Guatemala's civil war. In a Feb. 26 ruling, Judge Jazmin Barrios found that the actions of retired Lt. Col. Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Girón and former paramilitary Heriberto Valdez Asij did "irreparable harm." Reyes and Valdez were tried for murder, forced disappearances and the sexual enslavement of multiple women. The court also found that the women's husbands and children had been forcibly disappeared.

From Jurist, Feb. 29. Used with permission.

Note: According to the prosecution, in 1982 armed forces repeatedly attacked the village of Sepur Zarco and killed or took away community leaders who had been applying for land titles and had angered local landowners. The men were accused of being associated with left-wing guerillas. The court heard how military commanders considered the women to be "available" without their men and had then taken them into sexual and domestic slavery. "This is historic, it is a great step for women and above all for the victims," said Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, who attended the hearing. Sepur Zarco, which was trandformed into a military base after being occupied by the army, is near El Estor in Izabal department, the site of an unpopular mining project. (BBC News, Feb. 27; Prensa Libre, Feb. 26; Guatemala Human Rights Commission)