Historic Guatemala Verdict: 360 Yrs. for Rights Abuses

Historic Guatemala Verdict: 360 Yrs. for Rights AbusesHistoric Guatemala Verdict: 360 Yrs. for Rights Abuses

A court in Guatemala has sentenced two former members of the military to 360 years in jail for human rights abuses.  

Francisco Reyes Giron was the former commander of the Sepur Zarco military base and Heriberto Valdez Asij, a military commissioner. They were charged with sexual enslavement, rape and murder of a group of indigenous women.

It is the first successful prosecution for sexual violence during Guatemala’s armed conflict, BBC reported.

There were jubilant scenes in court with people cheering and applauding the victims when the judge finished reading out the sentence.

“This is historic; it is a great step for women and above all for the victims,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu who attended the hearing.

The retired officer, Francisco Reyes Giron, was found guilty of holding 15 women in sexual and domestic slavery and for killing one woman and her two daughters.

Heriberto Valdez Asij, a paramilitary who carried out commissions for the army, was convicted for the same enslavement, as well as the forced disappearance of seven men.

According to the prosecution, in 1982, armed forces repeatedly attacked the village of Sepur Zarco and killed or took away Mayan Quiche leaders who had been applying for land titles and had angered local landowners. The men were accused of being associated with leftwing guerrillas.

Agustin Chen, one of the men who survived, said the soldiers took him to a cell and beat him every day.

“They killed seven people, throwing two grenades into the pit where they had put them.”

The court heard how military commanders considered Quiche women to be “available” without their men and had then taken them into sexual and domestic slavery.

They were required to report every third day to the base for “shifts” during which they were raped, sexually abused and forced to cook and clean for the soldiers.

In a report to the court, anthropologist, Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj, said, “The military outposts were installed in the region to give security to the landowner’s farms and to take possession of the lands.”

For some of the victims, their ordeal lasted as long as six years until the base was closed in 1988.

The victims have been demanding accountability for the crimes at Sepur Zarco for decades.


Many of the victims are in their seventies and eighties and are still extremely traumatized.