Photo Credit: Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).

Last
week, a Guatemalan court indicted Francisco Cuxum Alvarado on charges of crimes
against humanity and aggravated sexual assault in a case brought by 36 Maya
Achi women.

Judge
Miguel Ángel Gálvez of High Risk Court “B” is
overseeing the case. The case was turned over to Judge Gálvez after the
original pre-trial judge in the case, Claudette Domínguez, was recused by the plaintiffs for lack of impartiality.

Cuxum
Alvarado, 64, was deported to Guatemala in January after
having been convicted for illegal reentry into the United States in December
2019. He was immediately arrested by authorities.

This
indictment reopens the Maya Achi sexual violence case, which hit a major
stumbling block last year when Judge Domínguez dismissed the charges against six men who had
been arrested and charged in the case and ordered their release. The plaintiffs
have challenged this ruling in court and hope to have it overturned. In the
meantime, the case against Cuxum Alvarado will proceed to the evidentiary
phase, currently scheduled to begin May 19.

The
Case Against Cuxum Alvarado

In
the first declaration hearing on February 5, Prosecutor Rosa Carolina López
presented the charges against Cuxum Alvarado. She stated in 1981 he was a
member of the civil defense patrol (PAC) of Xococ in the municipality of
Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. The Xococ PAC was under the supervision and command of Military Zone
No. 21 in Coban, Alta Verapaz, the same base from which the remains of 565
victims of the armed conflict have been exhumed and for which eight senior
military officials are awaiting public trial, pending the resolution of several
appeals (See Eight Military Officers to Stand Trial in
the CREOMPAZ case
.)

The
prosecutor argued that PACs, under the command and control of the Guatemalan
military, committed systematic violations of international human rights law and
humanitarian law against the civilian population. Women detained on suspicion
of collaborating with subversive organizations or because their husbands or
other family members were considered “enemies of the state” were
regularly subjected to individual and collective acts of sexual violence
because of their gender.

According
to López, in November 1981 Cuxum Alvarado, along with Simeon Enriquez Gomez and
his brothers Pedro, Damian, and Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado, all of whom were
members of both the Xococ PAC and the army, broke into the home of Margarita
Alvarado Enriquez de Xitumul. In her testimony, Alvarado Enríquez noted that
her husband had been forcibly disappeared and that the PAC members tried to tie
her up after she went to them asking for information about his whereabouts.
Cuxum Alvarado and the others came to her home a few days later. Using physical
violence and threatening her with a firearm, they individually and collectively
sexually assaulted Alvarado Enriquez, even after she told them she was three
months pregnant. They also hit her in the stomach repeatedly.

The
prosecutor noted that Alvarado Enriquez suffered a miscarriage as a result of
this assault and continues to suffer psychological damage. She presented a recording
of the 2018 pretrial hearings in which Alvarado Enriquez could be heard sobbing
intermittently as she described the abuses. After her testimony, Judge
Domínguez is heard aggressively interrogating Alvarado Enriquez, saying:
“What is it that you are asking for?” Ms. Alvarado Enriquez answered,
“Justice. And I want him to tell the truth about what happened: in 1981 they
came to my house to rape me, first the PACs raped me, then the soldiers raped
me.”

In
the recordings presented by the Attorney General’s Office, Judge Domínguez’s
lack of empathy for the victim-survivors was on full display. At one point she asked
one of the victims: “Did the Attorney General’s Office pay you to come
here to give your testimony?” Such behavior was cited by the victims in
their motion to have Judge Domínguez recused from the case.

The Attorney General’s Office noted it would bring other evidence to support its case, including maps to clarify the sequence of events; reports about the role of the PACS in Rabinal between 1980 and 1985; documents regulating the actions of the PACS and their subordination to the Guatemalan army; official documents to confirm the identities of the victims and the accused; and several expert reports.

Lucia Xiloj, Haydee Valey, and Gloria Reyes of the
Popular Law Firm of Rabinal, in representation of the victims, indicated their
support for the prosecution’s indictment and highlighted the importance of the
victims’ testimonies in this case.

Judge
Gálvez invited the accused to make a statement, but Cuxum Alvarado said he did
not understand what was happening and refused to speak.

Cuxum
Alvarado’s defense lawyer claimed a case of mistaken identity, noting that
there were at least three other individuals with a similar name. She said that
there was no evidence to prove that her client was in Rabinal at the time of
the alleged crimes and called on the court to dismiss the charges.

Judge
Gálvez ruled that there was sufficient evidence to proceed to the evidentiary
phase of the trial. In a subsequent hearing on February 7, Judge Gálvez
rejected the defense’s request to allow the conditional release of the accused while
the case against him proceeds, given that he had been fugitive from justice and
was recently deported from the United States back to Guatemala.

The
judge set May 6 as the deadline for submission of the final indictment and
scheduled the start of the evidentiary hearings for May 19.

Two
others wanted in the Maya Achi sexual violence case are still at large, including
one of Cuxum Alvarado’s brother. Another of his brothers, Damian Cuxum Alvarado, was among the six released
by Judge Domínguez last August.

Lucía Xiloj noted that Cuxum Alvarado has been accused in a number of other grave crimes cases, including the Rio Negro massacre. She also noted that last December, the Popular Law Firm of Rabinal presented an amicus curiae on behalf of the Maya Achi women to the First High Risk Court, which is charged with resolving the appeals of Judge Domínguez’s decision to dismiss the charges against six men who had been arrested in 2018 but were later released. The amicus curiae, which was prepared by a group of international women’s organization, including Women’s Link Worldwide and several Colombian groups, outlines the international standards that the court should consider in making its final determination.

Last December, the Maya Achi women also filed a complaint against Judge Domínguez for racial discrimination.

Jo-Marie Burt is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at George Mason University. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Paulo Estrada is a human rights activist, archaeology student at San Carlos University, and civil party in the Military Diary case.

Source of original article: International Justice Monitor (www.ijmonitor.org).
The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).

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