Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Written by Lisa

One of the 36 Maya Achi Women Survivors in Court listening to the concluding arguments of the defense on January 19th, 2022. Photo Credit: Lisa Rankin

Today the defence presented their conclusions in support of their clients. As they didn’t present any evidence, it was difficult to know what they would include in their conclusions. However, it became clear quickly that by not presenting any evidence they could take liberties with their conclusions.

The first to present was the lawyer for Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado, an ex-civil-patroller accused of crimes against humanity and using a false identity. She focused on casting doubt on the expert witness and eyewitness testimony, stating a lack of logic and documentary evidence showing that Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado was a member of the civil patrols. While she stated that she wasn’t denying that sexual violence occurred, she argued there is not enough evidence to prove her client’s involvement in the acts. 

The day took a turn when the public defender for Benbenuto and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino began her presentation of conclusions by outlining the revolution in Cuba and the development of the guerrilla movements in Guatemala. It became clear the defence of her clients was trying to place the blame for the sexual violence on the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, rather than civil patrollers. It is important to note that at no time during the trial did she present any evidence of the guerrilla in Rabinal. She also tried to cast doubt on the expert testimony, as well as the victim’s testimony. She attacked her credibility by stating there were inconsistencies with date and time, vital in this particular case as Bernardo Ruiz Aquino had turned 18 only one day before the attack. However, it is important to note that the survivor said on numerous occasions the attack occurred on August 20, 1982 and that expert witnesses have said there should be no expectation that witnesses recall exact dates and times of these traumatic events.

In the Torre de Tribunales looking out across Guatemala city before the beginning of the last day of the Maya Achi Women Survivors of Sexual Violence trial. Photo Credit: Lisa Rankin

The lawyer for Damien Cuxum Alvarado and Francisco Cuxum Alvarado called the women’s testimony “fabricated” again attacking their credibility and stating inconsistencies with the women’s testimony. He also claimed that it was actually possible the guerrilla were responsible for the sexual violence. He claimed that one of the victim’s stories that her 2 year old child was tied to a post seemed illogical. The lawyer stated that neither clients’ name appeared in any documents tied to the civil patrols and that even though his clients were not civil patrollers, the civil patrollers were forced to act out of fear for their lives. Even though, he claimed, there is no connection between the civil patrollers and the Guatemalan army. 

The representative of the National Ombudsperson’s Office (PGN) representing the Guatemalan State in the trial stated that as the victims state the atrocities occurred in 1981 and 1982, the state should not be held responsible as the patrollers were only formally recognized by the government in 1983. However, military plans from the early 1980s show the implementation of civilians in community patrols. As the accused are not on any lists from the state, the state can not be held responsible. 

Finally, the five accused had the opportunity to make a personal petition to the court. Francisco Cuxum Alvarado made no petition, while the other four accused stated their innocence and that they had no knowledge of the crimes. 

The hearing was adjourned until Monday when the five victims will have the opportunity to make a petition to the judges and a decision is expected later that day.

Read the report-back from day 11 here.