Emma Molina Theissen Addresses Court as Guatemalan Atrocity Trial Moves to Conclusion

Monday’s proceedings in the trial of five senior Guatemalan military officers accused of crimes against the Molina Theissen family in 1981 included a personal declaration from Emma Molina Theissen—whose kidnapping, torture and sexual assault is central to the case against the five. It was the first time Ms Molina Theissen had addressed the court.

She stated that she wanted “to confirm that everything that my lawyers, the experts, and the witnesses have said are true: my captivity, torture, sexual violence, are the responsibility of the accused and very particularly Mr Zaldaña,” singling out Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, the defendant who allegedly had direct control over her during the period of her detention. She added, in response to the defense lawyers who tried to cast doubt on her escape from military captivity in 1981: “The fact that I escaped is not unusual, it is very unusual, because otherwise, there would not be 45,000 victims of enforced disappeared in this country.”

“I want to tell you that they did not kill me, but what they did profoundly destroyed my life,” she continued. “For many years I was filled with terror and suffering; I did not consider myself worthy of living, I considered that my life was a life stolen from my brother. The fact that by escaping I had managed save my own life filled me with pride, but this became my worst mistake, the worst moment of my life…because it resulted in the kidnapping and the disappearance of my little brother.”

She  told the court that she never believed that justice was possible. “I have lived crushed by guilt, shame, pain, and disgust…. They desecrated my body, they violated all my humanity. I will carry that for the rest of my life.” But, she said, she had drawn strength from the love of her family members and from all of those who accompanied her during this process of searching for justice. Among those present in the courtroom were some of the women who a judgment in 2016 in the historic Sepur Zarco case against two senior military officials for sexual violence, sexual slavery, and domestic slavery.

She said that for her, the very fact that this case has been heard in court has in itself been healing, because it “has given us the opportunity to tell our truth and ask for the justice we deserve.” She asked the court “to hand down a judgment that is proportional to the damage caused.”

Ms Molina-Theissen concluded her statement directly addressing the five senior military officials accused in this case: “I return to you the feeling of shame, I return to you the feeling of terror, and though I cannot get rid of the pain and I will never get rid of the feeling of disgust, I leave you with their hatred, because it takes a lot of hatred to do what you did to us. We deserve justice. I deserve justice. You can keep the rest. And I hope you have a little bit of honor and tell us: where is Marco Antonio?”

Emma’s mother, Emma Theissen Álvarez de Molina, and her sister, Ana Lucrecia, also addressed the court. Doña Emma told the court that she had not known that her daughter Emma had suffered such harm at the hands of the army. “I add the pain she experienced to the pain that my son’s kidnapping caused me. What they did to my family was extremely cruel. They had no right to take my son, and not only did they take my son, they took away thousands of people.” She asked the court to punish those responsible, reminding the court that she had identified Hugo Zaldaña Rojas as one of the men who kidnapped her son. Ana Lucrecia told the court: “I want to know where my brother is, so that we can give him a dignified burial.”

Lucas García Defense

Earlier in the proceedings, Jorge Lucas Cerna, lawyer for and son of Benedicto Lucas Garcia, presented his final arguments. He began by attacking the evidence presented by the Attorney General’s Office and the plaintiffs. He rejected the notion that the Molina Theissen family was being monitored or subject to surveillance, asserting instead of that a file was created on Emma as a result of her 1976 capture, when she was allegedly found in possession of subversive propaganda and weapons. He outlined what he claimed were a series of contradictions between different testimonies presented during the course of the proceedings. He noted, for example, that Emma’s different statements were contradictory in terms of the dates and times in which she was in hiding after her escape.

He echoed the assertion of his predecessors that military expert Hector Rosada told the court that he thought Emma’s escape “was strange,” without taking into account that part of his testimony included reviewing a document that was found at the home of Gordillo Martínez dated six months before the events, in which the military high command affirms that MZ 17 had security problems. The defense lawyer asked that no expert opinion be taken into account,  ending his presentation by asking the court to declare his client not guilty and release him immediately.

At the end of the session, the court gave an opportunity to each of the defendants to make a final statement. Lucas García, Callejas y Callejas, Gordillo Martínez and Letona Linares denied knowledge of and responsibility for the crimes. Lucas Garcia stated that none of the expert witnesses fully understood the functioning of the military institution. Callejas y Callejas made a more ideological statement, stating that present trial was an example of how “21st-century socialism” and “politically correct” sectors are trying to take power and destroy the military.

The court announced at the final defendant Zaldaña Rojas would address the court on Tuesday May 22 at 8:30 am.  It is expected that the court will then adjourn and deliver its verdict in the afternoon on Tuesday,  but this has yet to be confirmed.