International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Critical hearing in Guatemala’s Molina Theissen case delayed again

The next hearing in the Molina Theissen case, already postponed once earlier this month from December 9 to December 22, has been rescheduled again by the office of Judge Víctor Hugo Herrera Ríos of High Risk Court C, with a new court date now set for January 13, 2017.

This is a critical hearing, at which the parties will present their concluding remarks, followed by the judge’s determination as to whether there is sufficient evidence to send to trial the former military officers who have been indicted in this case. Five high-ranking military officers have been indicted in this case, for the illegal detention, torture, and sexual violence committed against Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, and for the enforced disappearance of her … Continue Reading

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Court Reinstates CREOMPAZ Victims, but Obstacles Remain

On December 14, the Constitutional Court granted a provisional protective measure (amparo) to the plaintiffs in the CREOMPAZ case. The amparo seeks the reincorporation of dozens of victims who were excluded by the June 2016 decision by presiding pretrial judge Claudeth Domínguez to send eight of the eleven defendants to trial. CREOMPAZ is the current name for the installations in Cobán, Alta Verapaz where Military Base No. 21 (MZ21) was located. Since 2012, investigators have exhumed 558 bodies from MZ21, over 100 of which have been identified as victims of enforced disappearance and related crimes.

Juan Francisco Soto, executive director of the Center for Legal Action in Human Rights (CALDH), which is one of the organizations representing the victims in the … Continue Reading

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Judge Imposes Travel Ban on Congressman Wanted in CREOMPAZ Case

On the afternoon of Monday, December 5, Judge Claudette Domínguez of High Risk Tribunal “A” imposed a travel ban on Congressman Edgar Justino Ovalle. Ovalle is currently under impeachment proceedings in response to a petition filed by the Attorney General’s Office to revoke his congressional immunity in order to prosecute him for war crimes in the CREOMPAZ case. The ruling came about in response to a petition filed by the Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office, which is directed by Hilda Pineda, earlier the same day.

The battle over Ovalle’s congressional immunity has been brewing for nearly a year. On January 6, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office sought to revoke Ovalle’s immunity in order to prosecute him, along with several other high-ranking military … Continue Reading

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Victims Seek to Revoke Immunity of Congressman Wanted for War Crimes

Congressman Edgar Justino Ovalle has spent the better part of 2016 under threat of criminal charges. Though he took his seat as a deputy in the Guatemalan National Congress on January 14, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office has not ceased in its efforts to prosecute him for war crimes.

Guatemala’s Attorney General, Thelma Aldana, made international headlines last year when she arrested then-President Otto Pérez Molina and a slew of other government officials for their involvement in alleged massive corruption schemes. She surprised again on January 6, 2016, when her office ordered the arrest of 18 high-ranking retired military officials for war crimes. These included individuals like Benedicto Lucas García, the former head of the army, whom most Guatemalans believed to … Continue Reading

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Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Ríos Montt in the Dos Erres Massacre Case

Lawyers for former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt sought, unsuccessfully, to have charges against him in the Dos Erres massacre dismissed based on the argument that he is mentally incompetent. The Dos Erres massacre took place over the course of three days in December 1982. Soldiers searching for insurgents who had attacked a military convoy and stolen army weapons systematically massacred more than 200 men, women, and children in the remote settlement, located in Petén. They then razed the village to the ground.

Judge Claudette Domínguez of High Risk Court A rejected the defense motion to dismiss the charges. She stated that in a subsequent hearing, she will hear arguments from the plaintiffs about the application of special procedures, like … Continue Reading

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Judge Charges Former Army Chief Benedicto Lucas García in Molina Theissen Case

A Guatemalan judge has ruled that there is sufficient evidence to initiate criminal proceedings against former army chief Benedicto Lucas García for the illegal detention, torture, and sexual violence committed against Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year old brother Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. The judge, Víctor Hugo Herrera Ríos of High Risk Court C, also accepted new charges of aggravated sexual assault brought by the Attorney General’s Office against the other four defendants in the case.

The original four defendants – retired military officials Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, Edilberto Letona Linares, Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, and Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas – were arrested on January 6, 2016 and charged on January 13, 2016. The judge … Continue Reading

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Judge to Rule on Former Army Chief’s Indictment and New Sexual Assault Charges in Molina Theissen Case

The next hearing in the Molina Theissen case is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25. Judge Víctor Hugo Herrera Ríos will determine whether to charge retired general Benedicto Lucas García with the crimes of forced disappearance, crimes against humanity, and aggravated sexual assault. He will also determine whether to accept the charges of aggravated sexual assault against the other four defendants, who were formally indicted on January 13, 2016 by the Fifth Criminal Court Judge Judith Secaida. The case has since been transferred to High Risk Court “C” and is being heard by Judge Herrera Ríos. (For background on the case, see Grave Crimes Brief: The Molina Theissen Case.)

The new charges against the original four defendants — retired military officials Hugo … Continue Reading

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