International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Court Ratifies Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Judgment

The High Risk Appellate Court upheld the historic Sepur Zarco judgment this week after unanimously rejecting the three appeals presented by the defense counsel of the two military officials convicted last February in the case. The judges read the summary of the ruling in an open session on Wednesday afternoon.

High Risk Tribunal A, presided over by Judge Yassmín Barrios, handed down the judgment on February 26, 2016. The trial court found Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig, guilty of all charges, sentencing them to 120 and 240 years respectively.

The court sentenced both officials to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity against 14 women who were … Continue Reading

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Court to Rule on Appeal of Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Verdict

On July 19, the High Risk Appellate Court in Guatemala will announce its resolution on three appeals presented by two former military officials convicted last year in the historic Sepur Zarco sexual violence case. The appeals seek to overturn the February 26, 2016 verdict by High Risk Tribunal A, presided over by Judge Yassmín Barrios.

The trial court found Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig, guilty of all charges, sentencing them to 120 and 240 years respectively.

The trial court sentenced both military officials to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity against 15 women who were the victims of sexual violence and sexual and domestic slavery. In … Continue Reading

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The Greco-Roman Wrestler Who Defeated Ríos Montt

The following article profiles Édgar Pérez, the director of the Law Firm for Human Rights (Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos), one of the main organizations representing victims in Guatemala’s grave crimes cases. The article and photos come from the news organization Plaza Pública and are being republished on International Justice Monitor with permission. The original Spanish version was written by Emiliano Castro Sáenz has been translated by Evelyn Recinos Contreras.

Pérez, in his office.

Édgar Fernando Pérez Archila has stayed out of the spotlight, even though he was the first to bring military officers responsible for committing grave crimes during Guatemala´s war to justice. He confronted Ríos Montt in the Genocide case representing the Ixil indigenous population, as well as the … Continue Reading

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Tied Up in Appeals, CREOMPAZ Enforced Disappearance Case Remains Stalled

More than a year since a judge determined that there is sufficient evidence to send eight retired senior military officials to public trial in the CREOMPAZ enforced disappearance case, the proceedings remain tied up in a series of appeals and other legal motions. Victims’ organizations have told International Justice (IJ) Monitor that they are concerned that the delays in resolving these appeals may be intentional.

CREOMPAZ is a training site for UN peacekeeping operations located in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. During Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, the site was a military base, Military Zone No. 21 (MZ21), at the center of military coordination and intelligence. Since 2012, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office and the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) have exhumed … Continue Reading

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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