On March 24th, 2021, the Rabinal Legal Clinic successfully appealed the decision made by now recused judge, Claudette Dominguez, on June 21st, 2019 in the case of the 36 Maya Achi women for sexual violence committed during the Guatemalan Internal Armed Conflict. Judge Claudette Dominguez was recused from the case for her prejudicial questioning of survivors and bias. This 2019 decision resulted in a step backwards in the case and the release of 6 of the accused ex-civil patrolmen.
This reversal, made by judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez of High-Risk Court B, affirms that the survivors and their lawyers provided sufficient evidence to proceed to trial against three additional ex-civil patrol members.
Four accused men will face trial in January 2022: Bernardo Ruiz Aquino, Benbenuto Ruiz Aquino, Damian Cuxum Alvarado, and Francisco Cuxum Alvarado (whose trial was confirmed earlier in 2020). Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar of High-Risk Court A will preside over the trial. She has decided upon several high-profile cases in the past, including the Sepur Zarco case, the first criminal sexual violence case concerning the Guatemalan Internal Armed Conflict.
In the slow march towards justice that the 36 women have courageously and collectively fought since first beginning to collect testimony in 2011, this decision is a much-anticipated step forward. It is also an important decision that recognizes the women’s testimony–which explicitly identifies the ex-civil patrolmen and the life-long impacts of the violence–as evidence despite being previously rejected as such.
In solidarity with the Rabinal Legal Clinic and the survivors of this case courageously offering their testimony, it is our hope that these efforts can contribute towards justice for all victims and survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict.