Evidentiary Phase of Maya Achí Sexual Violence Trial Set to Commence

The intermediate phase of the Maya Achí Sexual Violence case is scheduled to commence Monday, April 22. The Attorney General’s Office has accused 10 former members of the civil defense patrols (PACs) of crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence against more than 30 Maya Achí women in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz between 1981 and 1985.

In the late 1970s, the Guatemalan army created civil defense patrols (PACs) as a mechanism of social control and to combat the guerrilla. The army appointed local military commissioners to organize and control the PACs, which became a central element of the Guatemala’s counterinsurgency strategy. By 1984, there were more than 900,000 members of the civil patrol system. The Recovery of Historical Memory Project at the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala found that military commissioners and PAC members were identified as perpetrators in one out of every four massacres.

Judge Claudette Domínguez of High Risk Court “A” will preside over the evidentiary hearings in the Maya Achí sexual violence trial.

The court will hear and review the evidence against six former civil defense patrolmen arrested in May of last year. One of the suspects died of natural causes at the end of 2018. The remaining three accused remain fugitives.

The Attorney General’s Office has not yet filed any charges against mid-ranking or senior military officials in this case. However, it is known that the military base of Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, was under the jurisdiction of Military Zone No. 21 (MZ21), where the remains of 565 people were exhumed in 2012. The trial in that case, known by the acronym CREOMPAZ, has been on hold for two and half years. Among the victims at MZ21 were several individuals wearing Mayan Achí clothing.

Last February, the women survivors, who were accepted as co-plaintiffs in this case, filed an injunction before the Constitutional Court challenging the legislative bill that would change the National Reconciliation Law and impose amnesty for war crimes.

Jo-Marie Burt is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at George Mason University. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Paulo Estrada is a human rights activist, archaeology student at San Carlos University, and civil party in the Military Diary case.