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Five former paramilitaries face trial for rape after 40 years

Five former Guatemalan paramilitaries are currently on trial for the rape of 36 Indigenous Mayan women during the 1980s. 

Indigenous people were often targeted and harassed by the military government for allegedly backing the left-wing guerrillas during the conflict that took place between 1960 and 1996. In 2018, the five former paramilitaries were arrested along with three others. However, the case was dismissed and the magistrate released them. One died before being released. After authorities re-captured the remaining ex-paramilitaries, two were acquitted.

According to prosecutors, victims were as young as twelve years old when the abuse began and were alleged to have taken place around the small town of Rabinal, north of the capital of Guatemala City where a mass gravesite was discovered with over 3,000 bodies.

Lawyer, Lucia Xiloj said that many Mayan women “were raped after the (forced) disappearance of their husbands” by paramilitaries and soldiers.

"Today is a historic day not just for the Achi women of Rabinal (in Baja Verapaz), but also for the thousands of women who were victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict," Virginia Valencia, who is representing five of the 36 alleged victims, said. 

The government military stand accused of numerous atrocities during the conflict, including the death and or disappearance of 200,000 civilians in the 36-year civil war. According to The Guardian, more than 100,000 women had been raped during the 36-year long conflict. This is not the first trial of this nature to take place in Guatemala. In 2016, a Guatemalan court sentenced two former members of the military to 360 years in jail for the murder, rape and sexual enslavement of indigenous women. according to The Guardian, more than 100,000 women had been raped during the 36-year long conflict.

For the first time in 2016, rape was considered to be a weapon of war and was identified as a deliberate military strategy; where soldiers had acted upon direct commands from government officials to kill local women’s husbands and later force them into sex slavery. Many other countries including Sri Lanka, Bosnia, and Rwanda have used sexual violence as a strategy during armed conflicts. 

Read more here and here

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