International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Former Military Intelligence Officer Identified as Kidnapper of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen

Emma Theissen Álvarez de Molina stands and looks over at the holding cell where the five defendants charged in the Molina Theissen case are sitting. The judge asks her if she recognizes any of them. Doña Emma walks closer to get a better look. She stands in front of Hugo Zaldaña Rojas and points to him.

“The man who is sitting on the far left,” she says, quietly but firmly. “That is him.” She says, “His face is forever recorded in my memory” as the one of the three men who raided her home that fateful day on October 6, 1981 and kidnapped her 14-year-old son Marco Antonio Molina Theissen.

Earlier on Monday, March 5, Doña Emma had described to the court … Continue Reading

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The Long Path to Justice: Trial Opens against Senior Military Officials in the Molina Theissen Case

On March 1, 2018, the long-awaited trial in the critical Molina Theissen case opened. Five retired senior military officers face charges of crimes against humanity for the illegal detention, torture, and rape of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, in 1981.

The plaintiffs allege that the disappearance of Marco Antonio was an act of revenge to punish the Molina Theissen family after Emma, a political activist, managed to escape from the Manuel Lisandro Barillas military base in Quetzaltenango, also known as Military Zone No. 17 (MZ17), where she was being detained. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the State of Guatemala responsible for the disappearance of Marco Antonio in … Continue Reading

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Nominating Commission for Attorney General Narrows Applicant List, Withstands Challenges to Its Work

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.

Field Narrowed

The Nominating Commission (Comisión de Postulación) to recommend finalists for the post of Guatemalan attorney general has rejected 14 of the 39 applications it received, leaving 25 applications remaining. The Commission met last Monday through Wednesday to make its determinations. It rejected the applicants for failing to meet requirements established by law and the call for applications. The Commission threw out applications for such reasons as failure to submit required documentation, failing to have … Continue Reading

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Much Anticipated Molina Theissen Trial Begins in Guatemala City

Today, in High Risk Court “C” in Guatemala City, the trial of five retired senior military officers has begun. All five are facing charges of crimes against humanity for the 1981 illegal detention, torture, and rape of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen.

This trial is significant because it involves the prosecution former leaders in the military that were once considered untouchable. It is also an opportunity to learn more about how the military used sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon during the civil conflict in Guatemala.

International Justice Monitor’s long time trial monitor Jo-Marie Burt is on the ground in Guatemala City following the hearings, and we will be … Continue Reading

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Nominating Commission for Attorney General Receives 39 Applications, but Faces Criticism and Legal Challenges

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 will be providing regular situation reports.

The Nominating Commission (Comisión de Postulación) to recommend finalists for the post of Guatemalan attorney general has received 39 applications. However, it has faced significant criticism from civil society organizations over what they say are deficiencies in its procedures that leave openings for political manipulation. Even as the Commission meets this week to determine which applications meet minimum requirements, various individuals have filed four constitutional challenges (amparos) to its work. Three seek amendment of its … Continue Reading

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How Guatemala is Choosing Its Next Attorney General

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 will be providing regular situation reports. Today, we provide an explanation of the process itself.

Legal Framework

Guatemala’s constitution established Nominating Commissions (Comisiónes de Postulación) in order to guard against the politicization of judicial appointments to the Supreme Court of Justice, Courts of Appeal, and other collegiate tribunals. The commissions are also intended to protect against politicization of the appointment of the attorney general or any other public positions relevant to the consolidation of the rule of law … Continue Reading

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International Justice Monitor to Follow the Selection Process for Guatemala’s Next Attorney General

Yesterday in Guatemala, a Nominating Commission (Comisión de Postulación) met for the first time to select the shortlist of candidates from which President Jimmy Morales will choose the country’s next attorney general. The selection process strongly affects how or whether domestic trials of grave crimes continue in Guatemala. For this reason, from today until the culmination of the process in mid-May, the International Justice Monitor will be providing regular situation reports on a complex process that in the past has been prone to political manipulation.

What’s at Stake

Over nearly eight years, the Attorney General’s Office has been the main engine for rule of law reform, collaborating closely with the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Attorneys General Claudia Paz … Continue Reading

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Mass Burial Takes Place of Ixil Victims of the Guatemalan Armed Conflict

As the genocide trial continues to unfold before High Risk Court “B” in Guatemala, a mass burial of 172 Maya Ixil victims of the armed conflict took place in the village of Santa Avelina, San Juan Cotzal, Quiché, in the heart of the Maya Ixil region of Guatemala. Human rights lawyers have confirmed to International Justice Monitor that at least one of the survivors from Santa Avelina is a witness in the ongoing cases against Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez.

The victims were from Santa Avelina, one of the “model villages” created by the Guatemalan army during the internal armed conflict to control the population it suspected of working with the guerrillas. One survivor, José Ceto, told El Periódico … Continue Reading

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Victims Testify in Genocide Retrial of Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez

Petrona Raymundo Brito was eight years old in October 1982, when the army arrived in her village in the Ixil region of Quiché in northwestern Guatemala. “When they arrived they burned our belongings, they burned our crops, and they killed our animals,” she told the court that is hearing genocide charges against former military intelligence chief Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. She also testified in closed-door proceedings against former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who is being prosecuted separately from Rodríguez Sánchez.

“They killed many people. My uncle and my aunt died there. They also killed my brother-in-law Jacinto Chen,” stated Raymundo Brito. Because of the army massacres, she said, “we fled to the mountains. Helicopters filled with soldiers passed overhead. They shot at … Continue Reading

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Legislator Proposes Blanket Amnesty for Grave Human Rights Violations in Guatemala

A bill was presented in the Guatemalan congress last week that would effectively establish a blanket amnesty for military officials accused of international crimes related to the internal armed conflict, in which an estimated 200,000 lives were lost. The bill seeks to alter the Law of National Reconciliation, which the Guatemalan congress passed in December 1996 in the context of the United Nations-brokered peace accords. That law provides for amnesty for political crimes, but not for international crimes such as genocide, torture, and other crimes against humanity.

The Proposed Legislation

On November 6, 2017, Congressman Fernando Linares Beltranena presented a proposal to reform Decree No. 145-1996, known as the Law of National Reconciliation. This law provides for amnesty for political crimes, but … Continue Reading

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