“It sets a precedent for this type of massive violation; we have never before sentenced for so many victims,” Inter-American Court of Human Rights spokesman Arturo Monje said.
The court, based in Costa Rica, ordered that $AUD 33,100, plus legal costs, be paid to each of the 317 survivors of the July 1982 massacre in the hilltop hamlet of Plan de Sanchez.
Troops entered the village, located in the Guatemala’s Mayan Indian heartland, and began raping women before herding the villagers into a building and blowing it up.
A total of 268 people, many of them from surrounding areas, were killed in the attack.
It was one of hundreds of similar attacks reportedly conducted as part of a 36-year military campaign to stamp out support for rebels in a civil war that endured until 1996.
An estimated 200,000 Guatemalans are believed to have been killed during that period.
In March, the Inter-American Court ruled that Guatemala’s government was responsible for the Plan de Sanchez massacre but has taken a further seven months to announce the damages awarded to victims’ families.
It is the highest-ever amount ever ordered to be paid by the court, but for Juan Manuel Jeronimo, it cannot completely ease the suffering of survivors.
“No matter how much money they give us, it will never bring back our relatives,” he said.
The court ruling also requires the government to undertake cultural, infrastructure and mental health projects in Plan de Sanchez and surrounding villages.
Lawyers representing the survivors welcomed the ruling but called for government action to try those soldiers responsible for perpetrating the crime.
“The court has told the government that it must investigate, judge and punish those responsible,” lawyer Fernando Lopez said.
In January this year, former dictator Efrain Rios Montt lost his immunity from prosecution for his alleged role in overseeing the bloodiest period of the Guatemalan conflict from March 1982 to August 1983.
Mr Lopez represents an association of massacre survivors that in 2001 filed a criminal complaint against Montt and two members of his military high command, which a special prosecutor was later appointed to investigate.
Montt, 77, has previously denied ordering any massacres of the kind carried out in Plan de Sanchez.