International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Nominating Commission Sends Six Finalists for Attorney General to President Morales, as a New Campaign Finance Scandal Engulfs Him

Guatemala is in the process of selecting its next attorney general to serve a four-year term: May 2018-May 2022. Because the process and result could have tremendous implications for grave crimes trials and the rule of law in Guatemala, the International Justice Monitor is providing regular situation reports.

The appointment of Guatemala’s next attorney general is now in the hands of President Jimmy Morales. Last Monday, the Nominating Commission tasked with choosing the shortlist, settled on the final six candidates. Amid concern that the composition of the Commission could make it prone to improper influence, following its vote, the Commission surprised observers by transmitting its results immediately to the president. President Morales has until May 14 to make the appointment.

The development came in the same week … Continue Reading

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Sexual Violence against Men and Boys and its Relevance to the Trial of Dominic Ongwen

On February 2, 2018, the legal representatives for victims (LRV) in the trial of Dominic Ongwen sought leave to present evidence highlighting the harm victims have suffered as a result of crimes committed by the accused. Among the five issues highlighted by the LRV was the infliction of sexual violence on men and boys. The LRV’s submission raises a question regarding the relevancy of sexual violence committed against men and boys by the LRA, particularly given the fact that the LRA was known to target mostly women and girls.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is alleged to have committed the crimes between July 2002 and December 2005 while he was a commander … Continue Reading

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Bemba Seeks Access to Confidential ICC Records on His Financial Status

Jean-Pierre Bemba is seeking to gain access to all confidential records related to his assets and financial status that are in the possession of the Registry of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The records were filed in the Congolese opposition leader’s main trial in which he was convicted and handed an 18-year prison term. However, Melinda Taylor, who represents him in a separate trial over witness tampering, says these records are needed in preparing sentencing submissions.

In October 2016, Bemba was found guilty of giving false testimony and corruptly influencing witnesses. Trial judges handed him a one-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine. Last month appeals judges upheld the conviction but reversed the sentence imposed on him and two of his … Continue Reading

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Dwog Cen Paco (Come Back Home): The Radio Program that Could Have Influenced Dominic Ongwen’s Surrender

At the height of the conflict in northern Uganda, various methods were employed to reach out to Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters, urging them to abandon rebellion and return home. John Oryema Lacambel, or simply Lacambel, is a radio presenter who outdid himself and became popular because of a program called “Come Back Home” or Dwog Cen Paco in Acholi language, through which he played traditional Acholi music and persuaded many LRA fighters to surrender.

Could this program also have influenced Dominic Ongwen, the former LRA former commander who is currently on trial at International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, to abandon rebellion? This article presents excerpts of an interview with Lacambel, who continues to be a presenter at Mega … Continue Reading

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Tribunal Hears Testimony from Expert on Enforced Disappearances, Former Political Activist in Molina Theissen Trial

Last week, the Molina Theissen case continued before High Risk Tribunal “C” in Guatemala City. Judges heard testimony from five prosecution witnesses as well as the 2004 declarations of Emma Molina Theissen and Axel Ranferí Mejía Paz before the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.

Tuesday, April 11

On April 11, the court called a protected witness proposed by the civil parties. However, the defense objected to this witness remaining protected because his name had already been mentioned in open court.

The court ruled that the full name of the witness should be disclosed, which led to the testimony of Mario Alfonso Bravo Soto via videoconference. He stated that he met Emma Molina Theissen in 1978 at a youth festival organized by the Patriotic … Continue Reading

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Prosecution Psychologist Says Ongwen Suffered Trauma While in the LRA But Did Not Have a Mental Disorder

A prosecution psychologist criticized how two defense mental health experts concluded Dominic Ongwen had a mental disorder between 2002 and 2005, saying he found their reports contradictory.

Roland Weierstall told the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he testified on Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12, there was no doubt that Ongwen suffered trauma between 2002 and 2005. These years cover the period during which the ICC prosecution alleges Ongwen to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Weierstall told the court Ongwen suffered trauma while he was a member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but that did not automatically mean he had a mental disorder.

He also said he doubted whether Ongwen had attempted to commit suicide eight times while … Continue Reading

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Nominating Commission Narrows Attorney General Applicant Pool to 14, but Critics Question Methods and Results

Guatemala is in the process of selecting its next attorney general to serve a four-year term: May 2018-May 2022. Because the process and result could have tremendous implications for grave crimes trials and the rule of law in Guatemala, the International Justice Monitor is providing regular situation reports.

Last week the Nominating Commission eliminated 16 applicants to be Guatemala’s next attorney general, leaving 14 ahead of its expected vote on Monday, April 16, that will determine the six finalists it submits to President Jimmy Morales. Critics have called into question the Commission’s objectivity based on how it conducted interviews with the candidates, designed its “gradation table” to assess candidates, and how it applied those criteria to decide on the advancement or elimination of candidates.


The Commission interviewed … Continue Reading

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Psychiatrist Says Ongwen’s ‘Resilience’ Should be Taken into Account When ICC Considers Judgement

A psychiatrist called by the prosecution told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the fact Dominic Ongwen was abducted as a child and survived for decades in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) should be taken into account when judges determine his innocence or guilt.

Catherine Abbo, however, told the court that Ongwen did not have a mental disorder between 2002 and 2005, which is the period that covers the charges against him. Abbo testified between March 26 and March 28.

Ongwen has been charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Uganda. As a commander of the LRA, Ongwen is alleged to have been involved in attacks on four camps for internally displaced people, and … Continue Reading

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Witness Testimony Resumes after Defense Lawyers Unsuccessfully Try to Remove Judge from Molina Theissen Case

On Monday, April 9, defense lawyers filed a recusal motion against Presiding Judge Pablo Xitumul, who is overseeing the Molina Theissen trial before High Risk Tribunal “C.” They claimed that Judge Xitumul’s father had been forcibly disappeared and that the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) found his body in 2003 at a military base in Rabinal, Alta Verapaz. The court agreed to hear the arguments of the parties on the motion but ultimately ruled that the defense lawyers failed to demonstrate that there was any connection.

It remains unclear whether Judge Xitumul’s father was forcibly disappeared and whether his remains were found in 2003 as the defense lawyers claim.

Judge’s Father: Victim of Enforced Disappearance?

Jorge Lucas Cerna, son of and lawyer … Continue Reading

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“I Choose to Live:” Emma Molina Theissen Testifies in High-Stakes Guatemala Trial

The Molina Theissen trial continued in Guatemala City on April 2 and 3, 2018. The highly anticipated testimony of Emma Molina Theissen was heard on April 3, as well as an expert on military archives and strategy, Mario Tulio Álvarez. On April 2, psychologist Jorge de la Peña Martínez testified about the how the torture and sexual abuse endured by Emma Molina Theissen while in military detention affected her physically and psychologically. During her interrogations by the military, he said, “They physically attacked her; they deprived her of food and water; and they repeatedly raped her, all with the objective of destroying her psychologically, socially, and morally.”

Psychological expert: “The torture and sexual violence Emma experienced left a permanent mark on … Continue Reading

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