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Guatemala court hands down harsh sentences for crimes against humanity during civil war

[JURIST] A retired lieutenant colonel and a former paramilitary were sentenced to 120 years and 240 years in prison, respectively, for sexual slavery and other crimes against humanity during Guatemala's Civil War and decades of armed conflict. Judge Jazmin Barrios found [El PeriĆ³dico report, in Spanish] that the actions of retired Lt. Col. Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Giron and former paramilitary Heriberto Valdez Asij did "irreparable harm." Reyes and Valdez were tried for murder, forced disappearances and the sexual enslavement of multiple women. The court also found that the women's husbands and children had been forcibly disappeared.

Guatemalan authorities arrested 17 former military and government officials [JURIST report] last month on charges of committing massacres and other human rights abuses during the Guatemalan civil war. Government security forces have been blamed [AP report] for the vast majority of the 245,000 killings and disappearances that occurred during the conflict. The prosecutors brought charges against officials suspected of involvement in the 1982 massacre at Plan de Sanchez, Baja Verapaz department, in which soldiers and militia members tortured, sexually abused and killed local residents. The prosecutors also brought charges against an ally of President-elect Jimmy Morales and moved to have the immunity of office lifted for Edgar Justino Ovalle, a member and co-founder of the party of Morales.

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