Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Written by María and Lisa

Vinicio Lopez Galvez while giving testimony before the court on January 13, 2022. (Photo Credit: Verdad y Justicia.)

On the 8th day of trial, the first witness was Vinicio Lopez Galvez who worked for the “Temporary High Level Commission”. He worked in a unit that was in charge of digitizing the data of civil patrollers for payment. He testified to seeing the accused’s names appear in his work.

The second witness of the day was an expert witness, Arsenio García Cortes. They presented an Analysis of International Credibility Standards for Human Rights Violations and the Maya Achi Women’s case to address questions of reasonable doubt. The standards that the expert addressed were: credibility, coherence, congruence, consistency, and plausibility. The expert explained in their report that one of the keys to evaluating credibility is not to hold the expectation that accounts be equal, but that they be complementary.

Upon analysis, the expert found that there was a high level of coherence between the womens’ testimonies. Their stories were consistent and the details were complementary. He explained that their accounts did not contain contradictions individually and collectively and therefore in addition to the many corroborations, this showed that sexual violence and torture were used as a systematic practice by the civil patrollers.  

As a result, the Maya Achi women survivors have presented all the evidence that is possible to present. While the Guatemalan state remained in impunity from 1995 to 2010. The expert explained that the women should not be blamed for a lack of evidence as their testimonies are coherent and consistent: “The women were victims of traumas that caused them physical and psychological harm, which damaged their life project, as well as the social and family stigma that they still live with,” the expert concluded.

Expert witness Arsenio García Cortes testifying before the court on January 13, 2022. (Photo Credit: Verdad y Justicia.)

The third witness was a historian, Canadian Marc Drouin. His expert report focused on the structure of the civil patrollers in the municipality of Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, the formation of the auxiliary forces of the Guatemala state, the origin of the civil patrollers and the model villages. The report used documents and testimonies, interviews with former civil patrollers in Rabinal and studying manuals, in the hope of understanding, and explaining the structure of the civil patrollers and their relationship to the Guatemalan army from 1981 to 1985. The civil patrollers executed operations against communities and even in some cases against their own families, identifying the general population as the “internal enemy”. 

The civil patrollers structure was at a local level, but they were responsible for organizing in communities, and the army was responsible for training and arming them, in accordance with the section of operations of the army in 1983, as stated in the manual Victoria 82. As stated by the witness, those in charge of the patrollers in communities were often people who had previously done some kind of military service. The expert witness shared Prensa Libre articles (the national paper) and images where the patrollers in Xococ received M1 rifles and training. The Guatemalan army trained the patrollers to control the civilian population, who were considered the enemy, alongside the guerrillas in the military plans (Plan de Campaña Victoria 82, Plan de Campaña Firmeza 83 and Plan de Campaña Firmeza 83-I). This counterinsurgency against Indigenous people included women and children who were considered enemies, and the goal was to attack the civilian population to leave the guerrilla without the support of communities. In conclusion, the State and the Guatemalan army share responsibility for the consequences, actions and impact of the war against “subversives” in the civilian population, including women and girls in Rabinal. 

At the end of the day, the mathematician Roberto A. Molina Cruz presented his report on the Economic Evaluation, which looked to estimate the economic cost of damages to each of the victims, a methodology used for reparations. This calculation includes the year, the damage to assets, property lost (crops, animals, etc.), displacement, costs of maintenance, health costs, moral damages, forced labour, monthly salaries, etc. He also took into consideration similar cases with reparations. The total cost for damages would be between  Q 443,334.00 to Q2,177,072.00 according to his 2016 calculations. 

The hearing adjourned for the day at 3:30 pm until tomorrow when it will continue for the 9th day of trial.

Read the report back for day 7 here.