Weaving Justice: Update on the case of the 36 Maya Achi women

By: Laura Robinson, BTS Research & Communications Assistant

On October 7th, 2020, judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez of High-Risk Court B decided that Francisco Cuxúm Alvarado will face trial for crimes against humanity in the case brought forward by 36 Maya Achi women for sexual violence that occurred during the internal armed conflict. 

Photo: Laywer Gloria Reyes with women in the case (Nov 9, 2019)

Francisco Cuxúm Alvarado was also named a suspect in 2018 for crimes against humanity in the Pacoxom, Rio Negro massacre of March 13, 1982. This triggered his deportation from the United States to Guatemala in 2020. During his immigration hearing, he admitted to being a member of the civil patrol.  Breaking the Silence reported on this back in december of 2019 as well as  February of this year.  

Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar of High-Risk Court A will preside over the trial. She has presided over several high-profile cases in the past, including the Sepur Zarco case, the first criminal sexual violence case related to the Guatemalan Internal Armed Conflict.

Proceeding to trial is a significant step forward in this long journey towards justice for the survivors. In 2011, survivors broke the silence about the violence they had suffered 26 years ago. Now, 35 years later, a trial is coming to fruition. 

There are several issues yet to be resolved in the case:

First, Judge Claudette Domínguez was recused from the case in 2019 for prejudicial statements during evidentiary hearings. Despite this, her decision to release accused suspects and not move to trial for six civil patrol members remains in the appeal process.

Second, two of the accused men remain at large, including one of Francisco Cuxúm Alvarado’s brothers. Additionally, the men released in 2019 remain free in the community.

Third, it is unclear whether the court will link Francisco Cuxúm Alvarado’s position as a civil patrol member to the Guatemalan military or government, making it uncertain whether the case will target the intellectual authors of the violence. 

Breaking the Silence remains in solidarity with our partners seeking timely, independent, and meaningful justice in Guatemala. We will continue to bring the network updates on the case and support our partners’ in this area. 

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