PBI-Guatemala accompanies Human Rights Law Firm at trial of state officials and police in the deaths of young women at shelter fire

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On January 19, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“#PBI accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm to the hearing for the start of the debate of the #SafeHomeCase. In the early hours of March 8, 2017, 56 girls and adolescents were found locked up in a state-run home when a fire broke out; 41 girls died and 15 survived, most with serious injuries. The quest for justice for them and their families enters its sixth year. For the second time in 2023 the trial has been adjourned; this time due to technical glitches in the audio room. It has been postponed to January 26th.”

On January 9, PBI-Guatemala posted:

“PBI Guatemala accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm to the hearing of the start of the debate of the Safe Home case. The hearing was suspended so as not to violate the defendants’ right to defense because two of their attorneys were not present.”

At that time,, El Mundo had reported:

The judge of the Seventh Criminal Court of Guatemala, Ingrid Vanessa Cifuentes, intended to take a giant step on Monday [January 9] to prosecute the first eight officials for the death of 41 girls, between 13 and 17 years old, and the serious injuries to another 15 in a fire in a home of protection and shelter of the State on March 8, 2017.

After being suspended up to eight times, the first oral and public debate was scheduled for today at 08.30 hours, five years and ten months after the tragedy that occurred in the so-called Safe Home, located in San José Pinula, 22 kilometers from the capital of Guatemala.

However, he has not been able to start, given that the lawyer of the sub-inspector of the National Civil Police Lucinda Marroquín has not appeared at the hearing after testing positive for COVID, according to a PCR test that he has presented as an excuse. Therefore, the judge has rescheduled the start of the debate for next January 19.”

TN23 explains: “The trial against 8 defendants is for different crimes, including culpable homicide, abuse of authority and culpable injury.”

That report adds that the defendants are: Carlos Antonio Rodas Mejía (former Secretary of Social Welfare), Anahy Keller Zabala (former undersecretary of Protection and Foster Care of the Ministry of Social Welfare), Santos Torres Ramírez (former director of the Casa Hogar), Gloria Patricia Castro Gutiérrez (former defender of Children and Adolescents of the PDH – Human Rights Ombudsman), Harold Augusto Flores Valenzuela (head of the PGN – Office of the Attorney General of the Nation – Juvenile Prosecutor’s Office), Luis Armando Pérez Borja (former chief of operations of the PNC – National Civil Police), Lucinda Eva Marina Marroquin Carrillo (former PNC sub-inspector), and Brenda Yulissa Chamám Pacay (former head of the Department of Protection from Abuse).


Forty-one young women, who were 14 to 17 years of age, died as a result of a fire at the state-run Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter south-east of Guatemala City on March 8, 2017. Fifteen girls were also seriously injured in the fire.

By November 2017, The Guardian reported: “Initially, three people – the former minister of social welfare, his deputy and the director of the shelter – were charged with negligent homicide, abuse of power and mistreatment of minors. In June, three government officials and two police officers were also charged.”

Al Jazeera has reported: “Some of the victims of the March 8, 2017 fire in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter had run away from home, fleeing abuse and sexual assault by relatives. But many faced more of the same inside the shelter.”

That article adds: “For years, girls reported being raped and forced into prostitution inside the state-run facility, but their protests were ignored.”

The Guardian has further noted: “More than 700 children lived at the home, which had capacity for 400-500.”

We will continue to follow this trial.

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