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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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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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.

Interviews

The Commission interviewed … 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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The Legacy of Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s Most Notorious War Criminal

Guatemala’s most notorious dictator, retired army general José Efraín Ríos Montt, died last Sunday of a heart attack at the age of 91. Ríos Montt came to power in a military coup d’état on March 23, 1982. He was deposed just 17 months later, on August 7, 1983, in a military coup orchestrated by his Minister of Defense, Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores.

Guatemala experienced extremely high levels of violence during its 36-year internal armed conflict. An estimated 200,000 people were killed, 45,000 disappeared, and tens of thousands forcibly displaced or exiled, along with countless victims of torture and sexual violence. According to the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission (CEH), Ríos Montt continued and amplified the scorched-earth policy designed and implemented by his … Continue Reading

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Nominating Commission Considers Objections to Attorney General Candidates Ahead of Public Interviews

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.

Thirty Candidates Remain Viable

Thirty candidates to become Guatemala’s next attorney general remain in the running. After the Nominating Commission narrowed the field of applicants from 39 to 25 in late February, it reinstated four candidates following consideration of their appeals against exclusion. A fifth candidate, Mynor Francisco Hernández Castillo, successfully appealed to the Constitutional Court to be reinstated. (A list all 30 remaining applicants is at the end of this post.)

Controversial Objections

From March 13-15, the … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Witness Illustrates the Impact of Argentine Military Training in Guatemala

The prosecution in the Molina Theissen trial has called four witnesses over the course of two hearings this week. On Monday, March 26, the prosecution called Dr. Julieta Carla Rostica, an Argentine sociologist who specializes in Central American studies and has investigated Argentine military training to Guatemala, and Ruth del Valle, a classmate of Emma Molina Theissen whose brother, Julio del Valle, was Emma’s boyfriend, and who was killed in 1980. On Tuesday, March 27, two expert witnesses from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) testified about the search for individuals who were the victims of enforced disappearance during the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996).

Rostica’s expert testimony was particularly important. Drawing on Argentine military documents and declassified U.S. government documents, she testified … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Four Protected Witnesses Tell Harrowing Stories of Torture

The Attorney General’s Office called four protected witnesses to testify in the sixth hearing of the Molina Theissen case held on Monday, March 19.  The individuals, going by pseudonyms witnesses B, C, D, and E, gave their testimony via video conference from the Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala City. These precautionary measures were taken because of the security risks they face by giving their testimony in the case.

The witnesses included a woman who cared for Emma Molina Theissen in the days after she escaped military detention, who spoke to her physical and emotional condition.  Another person testified about the forced disappearance of her father, which he witnessed, and two siblings. The third witness described the torture he endured while in … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Protected Witness Confirms He Saw Emma Molina Theissen in Military Custody

The fifth session of the Molina Theissen trial took place on Wednesday, March 14. Rodolfo Robles Espinoza, a retired Peruvian general who presented his expert testimony on the structure, organization, and doctrine of the Guatemalan military during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) in the previous session of the trial, answered questions posed by the civil parties and the defense lawyers for more than four hours.

Following Robles was protected witness “G” who was a member of the Guatemalan Workers’ Party (PGT). Emma Molina Theissen was a member of the Patriotic Worker Youth (JPT), an affiliate organization of the PGT. Witness “G” testified about the capture and arrest of Emma between September 27 and October 5, 1981 and affirmed that he witnessed … Continue Reading

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