Written by María Reyes

The Maya Achi Women Survivors waiting to enter the court room on the day the verdict is to be read

On January 24, 2022, the High Risk Court “A” presided by Yassmin Barrios, Patricia Bustamante and Gervi Sical, sentenced Benvenuto and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino, Damián, Gabriel and Francisco Cuxum Alvarado to 30 years in prison for sexual violence against Achí women, between 1981 and 1983 in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, during the Internal Armed Conflict (IAC) in Guatemala.

Photo taken on the first day of the Sepur Zarco trial, accompanied by BTS intern, Kristine Johnston

The Achí women’s case sets a second precedent for for sexual violence committed during the IAC; the first was the case brought forward by the Sepur Zarco women. On February 26, 2016, the High Risk Court “A” in Guatemala convicted military officers Esteelmer Reyes Girón and Heriberto Valdez Asig of sexual violence and domestic and sexual slavery against 15 Q’eqchi’ Mayan women, as well as several counts of homicide and forced disappearance. This was the first time a Guatemalan court has prosecuted a case of sexual violence related to the country’s 36-year civil war. The three-judge panel sentenced Reyes Giron to 120 years in prison, while Valdez Asig was sentenced to 240 years. The Sepur Zarco women’s case opened the path to justice for the Achi women and other survivors of sexual violence during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.  

During the debate, several expert reports and studies were presented to show that the women and girls were subjected to aggressions and torture. This qualified that the violence was “brutal and systematic” and for this reason, it is important for the Achí women that the reparation measures the court granted be complied with and implemented, some of these being:

  •  Compensation for the five women who denounced the condemned men.
  • Comprehensive health plans for survivors.
  • The installation or expansion of health centres in the three communities where the survivors live.
  • Training programs on human rights, women’s political participation, violence against women, and complaint mechanisms.
  • Training for state security forces on the prevention of gender-based violence and sexual violence.
  • scholarships for families of the survivors.

The Achi women had to wait 40 years to achieve justice. Most of the crimes committed during the internal conflict remain unpunished, which is why the case of the Achi women remains a hope within the search for truth and justice in Guatemala.


Read more here, the Rabinal Legal Clinic denouncing the National General Ombudsperson’s Office appealing the ruling of the high-risk court against 5-ex-civil-patrollers for crimes against humanity and sexual violence.

Leer en Español aquí.