October 30th, 2019

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MGA student Ryan MacRae organized a lecture by Gloria Reyes, a lawyer of the Rabinal Legal Clinic in Guatemala, at the University of Prince Edward Island as part of a speaking tour in conjunction with the Maritime Breaking the Silence Network and the UPEI Master of Global Affairs 2019 Cohort. During her visit, Gloria shared the case of the 36 women from Rabinal who are continuing to seek justice for sexual violence during the Internal Armed Conflict within Guatemala. 

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The 36 women involved in the law case are all from Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. Due to its location, Rabinal endured some of the hardest impacts of the internal conflict since it was used as a transit area for the guerillas. Gloria explained how government forces treated Indigenous peoples in the area as sympathizers to the guerillas. Throughout the 1980s, there were 20 massacres in Rabinal with most of the victims being unarmed women, children and the elderly. Sexual violence was also used as a genocide tactic by the state against the Maya Achi population living in Rabinal.

The legal cases emerged in 2011 and has seen 7 former members of military-controlled militias face charges for crimes against humanity, including sexual violence, torture, and illegal detention. One of the men has since died of natural causes while in custody, leaving 6 men to face charges. However, the case has seen setbacks. Gloria spoke shared how in June, Judge Claudette Dominguez made the decision not to send the 6 men to trial. A recusal motion calling for Judge Dominguez to be removed from the case was put forward and granted on September 9th. That ruling cited her prejudicial questioning of victims and evidence of bias on account of her sister’s position in the military. The legal team is still waiting to hear whether Judge Dominguez’ ruling on the case will be upheld.

The Breaking the Silence Network is a network of volunteers within the Maritimes who have been organizing to support Guatemalan efforts in fighting for political, economic and social justice since 1988. Throughout October 26thto 30th, the speaking tour with Gloria also included visits to Tatamagouche, Moncton, Fredericton, Antigonish, and Halifax.

By: Ryan Macrae