Two ex-soldiers face murder charges in Guatemala

Two ex-soldiers face murder charges in Guatemalan court over forcing 11 indigenous women into sexual slavery

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Former army officer Steelmer Francisco Reyes Giron (R), accused of keeping 11 indigenous women as sex slaves during the country's bloody 36-year civil war, sits during a hearing, in Guatemala City on February 1, 2016.

Two retired soldiers were in court Monday facing charges of murder, forced disappearance, and forcing 11 indigenous women into sexual slavery during Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.

Prosecutors accuse Esteelmer Reyes, a 59-year-old retired colonel, of "authorizing and consenting for soldiers under his command to exercise sexual violence and inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment against Maya-Q'eqchi' women."

His co-accused was Heriberto Valdez, a 74-year-old former soldier.

The two allegedly carried out the crimes in 1982 and 1983 in the northeastern town of Sepur Zarco, where the military was deployed.

Earlier in the trial, indigenous women with their faces and heads covered told the court of what they had suffered as sexual slaves.

Guatemala's 36-year civil war left more than 200,000 people dead or missing, according to the United Nations, which cast most of the responsibility for wartime atrocities and excesses on the government forces.

More than 40 percent of Guatemala's population of 16 million is indigenous, and that group was the most affected by human rights violations committed at the time.