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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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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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

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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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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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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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