International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Molina Theissen Case: Court Orders Creation of a Commission to Search for Disappeared Persons and Other Reparations

In the aftermath of the May 23 guilty verdict against four senior military officials for crimes against humanity, aggravated sexual assault, and enforced disappearance in the Molina Theissen case, High Risk Court “C” convened a reparations hearing on May 28. The Molina Theissen family did not request economic reparations, which they had already received from the State of Guatemala after the 2004 judgement by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights found Guatemala responsible for the enforced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen.

Former Army Chief of Staff and retired army general Benedicto Lucas Garcia participated via videoconference from the military hospital, as he has for the last several hearings of the proceedings, while the other three military officials convicted in the … Continue Reading

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Four Retired Senior Military Officers Found Guilty in Molina Theissen Case

Four retired senior members of the Guatemalan military—including two high-ranking officers previously thought to be untouchable, former Army Chief of Staff Benedicto Lucas García and former chief of military intelligence Manuel Callejas y Callejas—were convicted today in Guatemala of involvement in crimes against humanity. A fifth official was acquitted of all charges. Three of the officials received a sentence of 58 years in prison, while one was sentenced to 33 years.

The five retired military officials faced charges arising from the illegal detention, torture and sexual violation of Emma Molina Theissen, as well as separate charges for aggravated sexual assault. Three of the officials also faced charges for the enforced disappearance of Emma’s 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio in 1981. The five … Continue Reading


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 … Continue Reading

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Molina Theissen Trial Expected to Move to Verdict

The Molina Theissen trial is nearing its conclusion, with a verdict expected early this week.

Concluding remarks, which started last week, continued on Thursday, May 17, with Héctor Reyes, lawyer for the mother of the victims, Emma Theissen Alvarez de Molina, as well as defense lawyers for four of the defendants, addressing the court.

At the next hearing, scheduled for Monday, May 21, defense counsel for Benedicto Lucas García and each of the defendants in turn will present concluding remarks. Emma Molina Theissen and her mother will address the court, which will then schedule a final hearing. Civil party lawyers told IJ Monitor that this could be as early as Monday afternoon.

Concluding remarks: Emma Theissen Alvarez de Molina

In his concluding remarks, Reyes … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Prosecutor Seeks 90-Year Sentence for Benedicto Lucas García

On Monday, May 14, concluding arguments continued in the Molina Theissen trial. Government prosecutor Eric de León presented his concluding arguments, followed by human rights lawyer Alejandro Rodriguez, who represents Emma Molina Theissen. De León called for prison sentences of 50 years against each of the five senior military officials on trial for crimes against humanity and aggravated sexual violation of Emma Molina Theissen. He called for an additional 40 years for Benedicto Lucas García, Manuel Callejas y Callejas and Hugo Zaldaña Rojas for the enforced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, who was 14 years old at the time and who remains missing.

The hearing suffered a number of delays. Defense counsel for Hugo Zaldaña Rojas arrived late. Later, a … Continue Reading

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Molina Theissen Trial Moves into Closing Arguments

The Molina Theissen trial continued on Wednesday, May 9, with the presentation of one defense witness, one expert report on sexual violence, and several documents. After the defense renounced several witnesses, the evidentiary phase of the proceedings concluded, and on Thursday, the court moved to hear closing arguments.

The proceedings began on May 9 with the defense presenting expert witness Edwin Salazar, a physician and surgeon, to testify about the sexual violence committed against women in military bases. The defense attorneys asked the expert witness to review the declaration of Emma Molina Theissen. He stated that in his opinion, “this story is not credible.”

The civil party lawyers asked the witness if he had previously evaluated victims of sexual violence in military … Continue Reading

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Military expert: Senior military officials had full knowledge of and responsibility for the crimes committed against the Molina Theissen family

On Tuesday April 24, the Molina Theissen trial court called prosecution witness Héctor Rosada Granados, a Guatemalan social scientist who served as a peace negotiator on behalf of the government from 1993-96 and as the President’s Secretary of Peace. His book, Soldados en el Poder (Soldiers in Power), is widely regarded as a seminal text for understanding the Guatemalan armed forces during the armed conflict. Rosada Granados also testified in the 2013 genocide trial against Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. His expert report for the Molina Theissen case focused on the Army General Staff, military intelligence, and Military Zone No. 17 of Quetzaltenango (MZ 17), as well as on the doctrine of national security.

Rosada Granados opened his testimony … Continue Reading

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Expert testimony in the Molina Theissen trial: “Enforced Disappearance was a Weapon of War, Just Like a Rifle or a Bullet”

“Enforced disappearance was used as a weapon of war, just like a rifle or a bullet,” said Marc Drouin, a Canadian historian, during his expert testimony at the Molina Theissen trial on April 23. “The same was true for the use of torture and other methods in the course of interrogating suspects. These were not a form of punishment; rather they were methods derived from military doctrine.”

Drouin, an expert witness for the prosecution, outlined the key points of his expert report, “Theory and practice of the countersubversive war in Guatemala and its relevance for the Molina Theissen case.” In Guatemalan military doctrine, he stated, enforced disappearance was considered a valid technique of counter-subversive warfare. He also noted that operative units … Continue Reading

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Appellate Court Rejects Defense Recusal Motion; Molina Theissen Trial to Continue Next Week

On Wednesday, May 2, the First High Risk Appellate Court in Guatemala City rejected the recusal motion against Judge Pablo Xitumul, who is presiding over the Molina Theissen trial in High Risk Court “C.” The recusal motion was presented by the defense lawyers of Benedicto Lucas Garcia, Manuel Callejas y Callejas, Francisco Gordillo Martínez, Edilberto Letona Linares, and Hugo Zaldaña Rojas.

The defense lawyers reiterated the arguments presented on April 9 when they originally filed the motion against Judge Xitumul. They claimed that Judge Xitumul’s father was forcibly disappeared by the Guatemalan military in 1981 and that his father’s remains were exhumed from a military base in Rabinal and identified in 2003. The defense argued that these circumstances have caused Judge Xitumul … Continue Reading

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Appeals Court to Hear Recusal Motion for Judge in Molina Theissen Case on Wednesday

On Wednesday, the High Risk Appellate Court will hear the recusal motion presented by the defense lawyers of Benedicto Lucas Garcia, Manuel Callejas y Callejas, Francisco Gordillo Martínez, Edilberto Letona Linares, and Hugo Zaldaña Rojas against Judge Pablo Xitumul. Judge Xitumul is the President of High Risk Court “C,” which is hearing the Molina Theissen case.

Five senior military officials face charges of crimes against humanity and aggravated sexual violation against Emma Molina Theissen; three of the officials also face charges for the enforced disappearance of Emma’s 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio in 1981. The five officials were detained on January 6, 2016, and in March 2017, the preliminary judge determined that there was sufficient evidence to send them to trial. The public trial … Continue Reading

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