Tuesday, January 18
Written by Lisa
The day started off with the final witness for the prosecution, the sub-inspector of the Guatemalan National Civil Police who led the capture of Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado in his home in Guatemala City in May 2021. Despite the fact he was using a false name, they were able to establish that he was indeed the accused in the case.
The presentation of evidence ended with the Public Prosecutor renouncing three witnesses, one from the National Civil Police and two protected witnesses who were afraid to testify.
Both sides had the opportunity to present new evidence. The lawyer for Benbenuto Ruiz Aquino and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino requested the opportunity to testify. It was difficult to hear due to sound quality but Benbenuto Ruiz Aquino declared that he didn’t know anything about the accusations. Bernardo Ruiz Aquino then stated he didn’t want to “declare” because he wasn’t guilty and didn’t know anything about the charges.
The defence presented no other evidence in support of their clients.
Then the hearing shifted to giving the legal teams the opportunities to give their concluding arguments, starting with the Public Prosecutor’s Office. They began by going through all the evidence presented at the trial in detail. This included the expert testimonies, and eyewitness testimonies against the five civil patrollers. The prosecutor also went through the accusations made by the 5 survivors and the ongoing impact of sexual violence on their lives. She also outlined the international agreements and conventions on crimes against humanity, which includes the prohibition of sexual violence. The Public Prosecutor’s conclusions ended by asking for the maximum sentence for each of accused for each victim ie. Francisco Cuxum Alvarado- 30 years; Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado- 60 years plus the maximum sentence for false identity; Damien Cuxum Alvarado- 9- years; Benbenuto Ruiz Aquino and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino- 30 years each.
Lawyer Lucia Xiloj, focused her conclusions on the concept of the “eternal enemy” and using sexual violence as an arm of war against Maya Achi women. She looked again at the Civil Patrollers, and the encampment in Xococ. The Doctrine of National Security used a different strategy of control against women and men, and implemented psychological and physical warfare against the civilian population. Lawyer Xiloj called up official documents from the Guatemalan government showing Damien Cuxum Alvarado, Benbenuto and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino as members of the civil patrollers, including receiving compensation for their time as civil patrollers. Francisco Cuxum Alvarado and Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado were not included in the documents; the former fled to the US when the exhumation occured in Rio Negro and the latter assumed a false identity when the legal case for Rio Negro went forward.
Gloria Reyes, lawyer for the Rabinal Legal Clinic focused on the patriarcal, classist and racists conditions which led to sexual violence during the Internal Armed Conflict and how it destroyed the social fabric of Rabinal. Thousand of Achi women are survivors of sexual violence, however they continue to live with fear and stigmitization- that is why there are only 36 women in this case. This was brute machista force which has attempted to control the bodies of women. Reyes also stated the importance of including all the impacts on women when considering reparations- violence, disapearances, impacts on their health, the pillaging of their goods and property, pregnancy, and miscarriage as a result of the sexual violence.
Haydee Valey was the last lawyer for the plaintiffs to present conclusions. She focused on the patterns between the five cases.
First, sexual violence was constant during the Internal Armed Conflict, as well as in conflicts around the world. Using examples from the sentences of the Ixil Genocide, Sepur Zarco, and Molina Thessian cases, she showed that sexual violence occured as a stategy of war, the different places where sexual violence occured, and how it was used as a form of torture. Many times before women were massacred, they suffered sexual violence. The Interamerican Court for Human Rights has already resolved three times in favour of communities in Rabinal, stating sexual violence occured.
The next aspect was time; the 5 cases examined in this trial occurred in 1981 and 1982, consistent with national reports on the height of the genocide. The actions and authors were similar in the cases, with four of the women denouncing three of the men in separate instances of sexual violence in Xococ. The women were able to name the direct authors. There were repeated instances of sexual violence against women who were pregnant or pre-pubecent, which was true for many of the 36 victims, who were either pregnant or had very recently given birth- one only an hour before she was attacked. Often their primary caregivers or husbands were massacred, assassinated or disappeared before the sexual violence was perpetrated against them, and the civil patrollers claimed this was a “punishment” for what their partners or family members had done in support of the guerrilla. This is tied to the crime of being alone, as the survivors were often without their partners, and often alone at the time of the attack. There was also consistently the pillaging or destruction of property, in an attempt to take the “water away from the fish”, meaning community support for the guerrilla. This was a direct consequence of the government’s scorched earth policy.
Haydee Valey highlighted the importance of valuing the women’s testimony which is considered to be proof, with no need for corroborating evidence. This also gives space for the possibility of inconsistencies in the testimony of victims, especially the youngest victim who was 12 years old. Finally, these are considered crimes against humanity, and the Guatemalan state has/had the responsibility to protect these women from acts of sexual violence.
The case will continue tomorrow, with the conclusions of the defence. This will then be followed by the possibility of the right to reply, statements from the victims and possible statements from the defendants. Tomorrow may be the last day of trial, with a sentence following later in the week.
Read the report-back from day 12 here.
Read the report-back from day 10 here.