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International Human Rights Award acknowledges Indigenous women’s historic legal victory in Guatemala

23 November 2017

The Maya Q'eqchi women of Sepur Zarco have received the International Human Rights Award from the Human Rights Association of Spain, following last year's successful prosecution of Guatemalan military leaders for crimes against humanity.

Watch Trócaire's short film about the experience of the Maya Q'eqchi women and the 2016 trial.

Last year history was made in Guatemala as former Lieutenant Esteelmer Reyes Girón and military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij, were found guilty of crimes against humanity committed during Guatemala's 36-year internal armed conflict.  

The case was brought by Jalok U, a group of 15 elderly Maya Q'eqchi women from communities surrounding Sepur Zarco who experienced sexual violence and sexual slavery at the hands of the military for periods of six months to six years.

In its announcement of the award, the Human Rights Association said: 

“This organization of indigenous women is a global reference in the access to justice, as well as in the defense and demand of their human rights. Their long struggle and leadership have been essential elements for the investigation in criminal processes such as: exhumations, testimonies, contextualization of the region and the facts.”

Read the full announcement

The women were accompanied throughout the legal process and trial by Trócaire and its partners Women Transforming the World (MTM), The Centre for Community Studies and Participation (ECAP) and National Union of Guatemalan Women (UNAMG), who provided psychological, social and legal support, carried out forensic investigations, gathered witness testimonies and expert reports and mounted the legal case against the former military officials. 

Read the full story of the historic 2016 court case.