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Press release: Lawyer to speak in Halifax about struggle for justice by Maya-Achi women

Photo: Gloria Reyes of the Rabinal Legal Clinic in Antigonish on October 30, 2019 (Photo Credit: Stacey Gomez)

Halifax, NS (October 30, 2019) – On October 30th at 5:30pm, Gloria Reyes of the Rabinal Legal Clinic will speak at the Schulich School of Law (Room 104) at Dalhousie University. She’ll speak about the case of 36 Maya-Achi women seeking justice for sexual violence committed at the height of Guatemala’s 36 year internal armed conflict.

The event is part of a speaking tour organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS) with events in Tatamagouche, Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown and Antigonish.

The 36 women come from all over Rabinal, which was one of the hardest hit regions by the conflict. They all have different stories of how sexual violence was used as a tactic of genocide. Seven former members of military-controlled militias called the civil defense patrols are accused of crimes against humanity, including sexual violence, torture, and illegal detention. One of the men died of natural causes while in custody. 

Ms. Reyes, part of the women’s legal team, said: “This case is very important, because the women are from different rural communities and they have little access to justice. It’s also important that they talk about their case and the violence they suffered. It’s a big accomplishment to not be silent about violence against women. It sets an example for other women, encouraging them to denounce violent acts.”

This case has been over 10 years in the making. Sadly, there have been a number of obstacles in the struggle for justice. In June, the presiding judge, Claudette Dominguez, dismissed charges against the six accused men. However, the prosecution is appealing that decision. On September 9th, in a victory for the women, Judge Dominguez was removed from the case on account of her prejudicial questioning of victims and evidence of bias relating to her sister’s position in the military. 

BTS has been fostering solidarity with Guatemala since the 1980s, working with Guatemalan organizations like the Rabinal Legal Clinic, which is challenging entrenched impunity in the country. One aspect of BTS’ work includes inviting Guatemalan guests like Ms. Reyes to the Maritimes to shed light on important human rights issues affecting the country, and ways Canadians can be in solidarity. 

“The speaking tour is very important because it allows the women’s stories to be shared and provides an avenue for women to feel supported,” Ms. Reyes noted. 

“With this speaking tour, BTS and people throughout the Maritimes join the 36 women in calling for justice in this case,” said BTS Maritimes Coordinator Stacey Gomez. 

Find more information about the speaking tour here.  Facebook event here.