GUATEMALA: Faces Covered, Rape Victims Testify at Trial of Guatemala's Former Military Strongman

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
ABC News
Central America
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Indigenous women were systematically gang-raped by Guatemala soldiers and members of paramilitary groups during the country's 36-year civil war, victims testified Tuesday at the trial of the country's U.S.-backed strongman.

With their faces covered, the witnesses spoke in their native Ixil language on the eighth day of testimony in the trial of former Gen. Jose Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The court asked the media not to reveal their names or publish any other identifying information.

One woman testified that she had found four men raping her daughter.

“When they saw me they fled,” she said. “They were soldiers.”

The women's rights group “We Women” sang and held flowers outside the court in support of the witnesses.

“Sexual violence was a weapon of war to disarm communities,” activist Sandra Moran said. “We're here to support the victims. We recognize their bravery in breaking the silence about the sexual violence that was suffered. “

Rios Montt is on trial along with his former head of intelligence in connection with the deaths of 1,771 Mayan Indians during the military dictatorship he led from March 23, 1982 to Aug. 8, 1983.

The second woman to take the stand wept as she told the court that she had been raped by a series of men over three days in a military post in the Quiche department in the country's heavily indigenous highlands region in 1982.

“They tied my hands and feet,” and raped me, she said, “Not just me but my mother, too.”

Seventy-eight people have testified so far in the trial.

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