• Press Release

Guatemala: Conviction of military in sexual abuse case, a historic victory for justice

The convictions of two former military members for their roles in sexual violence committed against and domestic slavery of eleven indigenous women at a military base during Guatemala’s armed internal conflict in the 1980s is a great victory for justice in the country, said Amnesty International today.

“These historic convictions send the unequivocal message that sexual violence is a serious crime and that no matter how much time passes, it will be punished. It is a great victory for the eleven women who embarked on a 30-year-long battle for justice,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

These historic convictions send the unequivocal message that sexual violence is a serious crime and that no matter how much time passes, it will be punished.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.



“Authorities in Guatemala must now ensure that all victims of sexual violence, mass torture, killings and disappearances that took place during the country’s brutal civil war obtain justice. Victims and their families should not be forced to wait a minute longer to see those responsible for their suffering behind bars.”

The High-Risk Court A in Guatemala City found that Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of the Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdéz Asig were guilty of crimes against humanity committed in the departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz between 1982 and 1983. The women said they were sexually abused for months at the base and forced to cook and clean for the soldiers. The charges also included the murder of one woman and two girls and the forced disappearance of seven of the women’s husbands. Reyes Girón was sentenced to 120 years in prison and Valdéz Asig was sentenced to 240 years.

The trial set a precedent as the first case of sexual violence during the conflict to be tried as a war crime in Guatemala and the first case of sexual and domestic slavery as an international crime ever to be held in a domestic court, according to local human rights organizations. The criminal complaint was first presented in 2011 and the accused were detained in 2014. A UN-backed truth commission found that some 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war (1960-1996). More than 80% were Indigenous Maya.

Read more:
Shameful decision to postpone Ríos Montt trial a new stain on Guatemala’s justice system (News, 11 January 2016)

The two Guatemalas of Ríos Montt (Feature, 22 November 2012)