International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Civil Society Group Calls for Investigation of Former Judges Who Overturned Ríos Montt Verdict

On Wednesday, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), one of the civil parties to the genocide case against former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt, announced that it is filing legal motions against three former judges of the Constitutional Court.

The motion alleges that the judges committed legal prevarication, or breach of duty, when they ruled on May 20, 2013 to partially suspend the genocide proceedings and thereby vacated the guilty verdict rendered against Ríos Montt by High Risk Tribunal “A” on May 10, 2103.

The announcement by CALDH coincided with the fourth anniversary of the Rios Montt conviction.

Photo courtesy of CALDH.

CALDH is calling upon the Attorney General’s Office to name a special prosecutor to investigate the charges against the … Continue Reading

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Human Rights Trials in Guatemala: “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”

Since the Efrain Rios Montt trial took place in 2013, there has been a steady stream of investigations and prosecutions for grave crimes committed during Guatemala’s civil war. Despite tremendous opposition from former military officials and their supporters, prosecutors and judges continue to take on these challenging cases in an effort to fight impunity in the country, which until recently has been the norm.

In a podcast produced by the Washington Office in Latin America (WOLA), George Mason University professor Jo-Marie Burt discusses the history of grave crimes cases in Guatemala, including the cases against Rios Montt, and the role that the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has had in strengthening the justice system charged with prosecuting these cases. Ongoing … Continue Reading

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Ríos Montt to Face Second Genocide Trial for the Dos Erres Massacre

A judge has determined that there is sufficient evidence to send former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt to trial for the case of the Las Dos Erres massacre. This is the second trial Ríos Montt will face in which he is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

According to Guatemala’s Historical Clarification Commission, the Dos Erres massacre took place over three days in early December 1982 and was carried out by a counterinsurgency unit known as the Kaibiles. At the time, Rios Montt was de facto president and commander-in-chief of the army.

Over 200 residents of Las Dos Erres, a newly settled community in Peten, were killed in the massacre. Soldiers raped girls and women before killing them. They bludgeoned villagers, … Continue Reading

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Human Rights Groups to Inter-American Court: Impunity is Alive and Well in Guatemala

President Jimmy Morales invited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to conduct its 57th session in Guatemala City, perhaps hoping to repair the country’s tattered relationship with the international organization. However, in extending this invitation, he may not have expected the court to be reviewing Guatemala’s own record on accountability for grave crimes.

During its visit, which took place from March 20 to 25, 2017, the court held a private, closed-door session to review the implementation of 14 sentences it handed down between 1998 and 2012 against the state of Guatemala in grave human rights cases related to the internal armed conflict. The session was a follow-up to a similar hearing held in Costa Rica in 2014, when human rights organizations … Continue Reading

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Fears that Congressman Ovalle, Impeached in Relation to CREOMPAZ Case, May Have Fled

There are suspicions that a member of Guatemala’s Congress, whose immunity has just been lifted in relation to a case of enforced disappearances, may have fled the country. This Wednesday, March 15, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled to impeach Congressman Edgar Justino Ovalle. This came a day after Judge Benicia Contreras Calderon, charged with investigating the Attorney General’s charges against him, issued her opinion in favor of impeachment and a year after the Attorney General’s Office first filed its request with the Supreme Court.

With this decision, the Attorney General’s Office can formally initiate judicial proceedings against Ovalle in the CREOMPAZ case, which Attorney General Thelma Aldana has described as one of the largest cases of enforced disappearance in Latin … Continue Reading

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Judge Sends Five High-Ranking Military Officers to Trial in Molina Theissen Case

Judge Víctor Hugo Herrera Ríos ruled last Thursday that there is sufficient evidence to send five high-ranking military officers to trial for the illegal detention, torture, and sexual violence of Emma Molina Theissen and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio. The alleged crimes occurred in Guatemala in 1981.

Among the defendants are two decorated generals: Benedicto Lucas García, the former head of the High Command of the Guatemalan Army, and Manuel Callejas y Callejas, the former head of military intelligence. Lucas García also faces trial in the CREOMPAZ case, which has been referred to as the largest case of enforced disappearances in Latin America. The other three defendants are Luis Francisco Gordillo Martínez, Edilberto Letona Linares, and Hugo … Continue Reading


Judge to Determine Whether Military Officers Will Face Trial in the Molina Theissen Case

On Thursday, March 2, Judge Víctor Herrara Ríos of High Risk Court C is scheduled to determine whether five high-ranking military officers will stand trial for the illegal detention, torture, and sexual violation of political activist Emma Molina Theissen and the revenge kidnapping of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio.

The five officers, all retired, include two heavily decorated generals who were believed to be untouchable: Benedicto Lucas García, former head of the Guatemalan army, and Manuel Callejas y Callejas, former head of military intelligence. Callejas y Callejas later became notorious for his alleged role in organized crime; in 2003, the United States revoked his visa due to concerns over his involvement in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

The other three officials … Continue Reading

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No Answers on Whether Ríos Montt Will Go to Trial for Dos Erres Massacre

While a court has rejected efforts to dismiss charges against former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt in relation to the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, it has yet to determine whether the case will be heard using the special procedures outlined in Guatemalan law for individuals like Ríos Montt, who suffer mental incompetence, as solicited by the Attorney General’s Office. The court was scheduled to make this determination in a hearing yesterday but failed to do so.

Judge Claudette Domínguez of High Risk Court A is overseeing the Dos Erres case, which was reactivated when Santos López Alonzo, a former Kaibil accused of direct participation in the massacre, was deported from the United States in August 2016. Last November, Ríos Montt’s lawyers … Continue Reading

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Will Ríos Montt Go to Trial for the Dos Erres Massacre?

Tomorrow, a court will determine whether former de facto head of state José Efraín Ríos Montt will face trial in relation to the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, in which an elite unit of the Guatemalan army known as Kaibiles slaughtered over 200 people, more than half of whom were children.

Last November, Ríos Montt’s defense lawyers sought to have the charges dismissed, arguing that Ríos Montt is mentally incompetent. Judge Claudette Domínguez of High Risk Court A rejected the motion. However, she did not rule on whether Ríos Montt would be prosecuted under special security provisions that do not require the presence of the defendant and preclude the public from viewing the proceedings. That determination is scheduled to be made at … Continue Reading

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Prosecutor Lays Out Case Against Former Military Officials in Sexual Violence, Torture, and Enforced Disappearance Case

On January 13, 2017, a full year after four military officials were arrested in relation to the Molina Theissen case, High Risk Court C in Guatemala initiated hearings in the final phase of the pre-trial proceedings.  Last Friday’s hearing was set to determine whether the four military officials, along with former army chief Benedicto Lucas García, will face trial for the illegal detention, torture and sexual violence of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio. It was initially scheduled in early December and was twice postponed, presumably because the presiding judge, Judge Víctor Herrera Ríos, had scheduling conflicts.

The defense lawyers representing the five retired military officers engaged in numerous delay tactics, as they … Continue Reading

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