Written by Lisa and Laura

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Today was set to be the opening day for the trial of five former civil patrollers from Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, accused of crimes against humanity for sexual violence, committed during the Internal Armed Conflict. The case is being brought forward by 36 women survivors, who travelled from Rabinal to attend the hearing. In the morning, a ceremony was held on the steps of the Supreme Court to show support and give strength to the women as they embark on this difficult process, which was set to last three weeks. Nobel prize winner Rigoberta Menchú attended the event and spoke in support of the process, stating that “This not only the fight of the Maya Achi women, but the fight of all Indigenous People who have suffered these crimes against humanity.” The women who spoke during the press conference stated: “what we are asking for now is justice… Above all we want justice.”

However, when the hearing began, there was quickly cause for concern. The defense lawyer for three of the accused men was not present. The president of the tribunal, judge Jazmine Barrios, reiterated that lawyer Julio Cesar Colindres Monterroso was advised on numerous occasions of the date and time of the hearing.

After numerous attempts to call and wait for his arrival, the presiding judges decided to suspend the trial for the following morning. It is not clear if Colindres has abandoned his clients and the process entirely or just missed today’s scheduled hearing. If he attends the hearing tomorrow, the process will go forward just one day behind. However, if the defendants are forced to find new legal counsel, the new defense lawyer will have the right to request a five day suspension to become familiar with the case. This has the potential to create significant delays as the trial was set to run consistently from today, January 4th, until January 21st and the courts have extremely full agendas in the coming year.

Tomorrow we will have a better idea of how and when the trial will progress. Despite this clear case of malicious litigation as an attempt to further delay justice, the 36 Achi women are holding strong and more committed than ever to continue their struggle for justice.

Read the update for day 2 here.

Photos 1 and 2: The survivors gather in front of the Supreme Court of justice on January 4th to hold ceremony and a press conference.

Photo 3: Paulina Ixpatá and the other women walk by signs posted by pro-military protesters posted in front of the courthouse with phrases meant to intimidate them. Signs read things such as “Accused UNJUSTLY in the Achi Women’s Case” “This is all a lie and therefore can’t remain in impunity” “The men are innocent” “Unfounded accusations that occurred 40+ years ago” (Photo Credits: Este Chep)