Trial for war-time rapes at Guatemalan army base delayed
Guatemala City, Jan 4 (EFE).- Tuesday’s scheduled start of the trial of five former paramilitaries accused of raping 36 indigenous women at an army garrison during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war was delayed due to the lack of legal representation for one of the defendants.
Judge Jazmin Barrios postponed the proceedings for 24 hours, citing the defendant’s due-process right to counsel.
Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado, Francisco Cuxum Alvarado, Damain Cuxum Alvarado, Bernardo Ruiz Aquino and Bembenuto Ruiz Aquino were all members of one of the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols (PAC) that functioned as army auxiliaries in the decades-long conflict.
Prosecutors say that the five men engaged systematically in sexual assault against 36 Achi women at an army barracks in Rabinal, a town some 100 km (60 mi) north of Guatemala City.
The alleged offenses took place between 1981 and 1985, the bloodiest phase of a war that killed more than 200,000 people, the vast majority of them indigenous peasants slain by the army and its allies.
“We want a verdict,” victim Paulina Ixpata said outside the courthouse in Guatemala City, where she and the other sexual assault survivors were joined by supporters, including Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Rigoberta Menchu.
“We have been fighting for a long time,” Ixpata said.
The legal battle began in 2010, when a group of lawyers in Rabinal who were seeking testimony about civil-war era massacres in the area heard accounts of rapes.
Through the process of assembling and comparing those stories, the attorneys detected a pattern and were able to determine that 36 women were assaulted at the Rabinal base, according to Guatemalan online outlet gAZeta. EFE jcm/dr