Guatemalan Man Sentenced To 50 Years, Brothers Freed From Fear

IJM Guatemala helped secure a 50-year sentence against the man who abused two brothers.
IJM Guatemala helped secure a 50-year sentence against the man who abused two brothers.

GUATEMALA CITY – IJM Guatemala's psychologist Miriam Cruz has helped many children prepare to share the truth in court. She remembers standing with brothers Marlon,* 16, and Adrian,* 13. They were getting ready to enter the Gesell Chamber, a special room set up in Guatemalan courts so that children can testify in a comfortable place, instead of in the courtroom where the suspect is present.

Miriam remembers her conversation with Adrian: "The younger brother asked me, 'Do I have to tell everything?' 'Yes,' I told him, 'everything that you can.' 'Ok,' he said, and off he went."

"Given all of the details and the trauma, I worried he might forget something. But I shouldn't have worried; he gave the judge everything he needed."

The brothers were testifying against their mother's live-in boyfriend, who had sexually assaulted the boys. An imposing figure to the boys, he was a security guard for the city's public bus system.

Miriam remembers her conversation with Adrian: "The younger brother asked me, 'Do I have to tell everything?' 'Yes,' I told him, 'everything that you can.' 'Ok,' he said, and off he went."

One day, 16-year-old Marlon saw his mother's boyfriend trying to abuse his little brother. Desperate to save his brother from further harm, Marlon started to throw rocks at the man. The perpetrator became and angry and started to beat up the brothers, who managed to get away. As they were running and crying out for help, two police officers intervened. The perpetrator was close behind, chasing after the brothers. In response to the police officers' questions, the perpetrator offered them money, about $70, to keep quiet. Rather than accept the money, the police officers arrested the perpetrator for bribery.

The government referred the case to IJM, and in May 2012 the trial took place. In a surprising turn of events, the perpetrator confessed to his crimes during the first hearing – an admission of guilt that "almost never happens," according to one of IJM Guatemala's lawyers.

The perpetrator was sentenced to 54 years and 8 months in prison. When the brothers found out, they were surprised. Their plea for help had been answered. Their public justice system had in fact provided the justice they needed.

"Before, these boys looked so serious. You could tell they were carrying a lot of stress," said the IJM lawyer who had fought for them in court, adding "When we told them the perpetrator plead guilty, they had such beautiful smiles on their faces."  

*Pseudonyms have been used for the protection of these IJM clients.