Watershed Sexual Violence Trial Charges Ex-Military Commanders for Crimes Against Humanity in Guatemalan Court

By Megan Abbot

The Sepur Zarco case, named after a military base in which widespread human rights abuses occurred against the civilian population, charges Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Giron, former commander of the base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig for their leadership of crimes of mass sexual violence and slavery.  The prosecutor is charging these crimes as violations of international humanitarian law, and thus as war crimes. Jo-Marie Burt reports for the International Justice Monitor that it is the first time that the Guatemalan court has prosecuted a crime of sexual violence from its decades-long civil war.  It is the first time that any court of any country is hearing crimes of sexual violence as crimes under international law.