International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Tribunal Hears Testimony from Expert on Enforced Disappearances, Former Political Activist in Molina Theissen Trial

Last week, the Molina Theissen case continued before High Risk Tribunal “C” in Guatemala City. Judges heard testimony from five prosecution witnesses as well as the 2004 declarations of Emma Molina Theissen and Axel Ranferí Mejía Paz before the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.

Tuesday, April 11

On April 11, the court called a protected witness proposed by the civil parties. However, the defense objected to this witness remaining protected because his name had already been mentioned in open court.

The court ruled that the full name of the witness should be disclosed, which led to the testimony of Mario Alfonso Bravo Soto via videoconference. He stated that he met Emma Molina Theissen in 1978 at a youth festival organized by the Patriotic … Continue Reading

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Witness Testimony Resumes after Defense Lawyers Unsuccessfully Try to Remove Judge from Molina Theissen Case

On Monday, April 9, defense lawyers filed a recusal motion against Presiding Judge Pablo Xitumul, who is overseeing the Molina Theissen trial before High Risk Tribunal “C.” They claimed that Judge Xitumul’s father had been forcibly disappeared and that the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) found his body in 2003 at a military base in Rabinal, Alta Verapaz. The court agreed to hear the arguments of the parties on the motion but ultimately ruled that the defense lawyers failed to demonstrate that there was any connection.

It remains unclear whether Judge Xitumul’s father was forcibly disappeared and whether his remains were found in 2003 as the defense lawyers claim.

Judge’s Father: Victim of Enforced Disappearance?

Jorge Lucas Cerna, son of and lawyer … Continue Reading

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“I Choose to Live:” Emma Molina Theissen Testifies in High-Stakes Guatemala Trial

The Molina Theissen trial continued in Guatemala City on April 2 and 3, 2018. The highly anticipated testimony of Emma Molina Theissen was heard on April 3, as well as an expert on military archives and strategy, Mario Tulio Álvarez. On April 2, psychologist Jorge de la Peña Martínez testified about the how the torture and sexual abuse endured by Emma Molina Theissen while in military detention affected her physically and psychologically. During her interrogations by the military, he said, “They physically attacked her; they deprived her of food and water; and they repeatedly raped her, all with the objective of destroying her psychologically, socially, and morally.”

Psychological expert: “The torture and sexual violence Emma experienced left a permanent mark on … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Witness Illustrates the Impact of Argentine Military Training in Guatemala

The prosecution in the Molina Theissen trial has called four witnesses over the course of two hearings this week. On Monday, March 26, the prosecution called Dr. Julieta Carla Rostica, an Argentine sociologist who specializes in Central American studies and has investigated Argentine military training to Guatemala, and Ruth del Valle, a classmate of Emma Molina Theissen whose brother, Julio del Valle, was Emma’s boyfriend, and who was killed in 1980. On Tuesday, March 27, two expert witnesses from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) testified about the search for individuals who were the victims of enforced disappearance during the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996).

Rostica’s expert testimony was particularly important. Drawing on Argentine military documents and declassified U.S. government documents, she testified … Continue Reading

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The Molina Theissen Trial: Four Protected Witnesses Tell Harrowing Stories of Torture

The Attorney General’s Office called four protected witnesses to testify in the sixth hearing of the Molina Theissen case held on Monday, March 19.  The individuals, going by pseudonyms witnesses B, C, D, and E, gave their testimony via video conference from the Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala City. These precautionary measures were taken because of the security risks they face by giving their testimony in the case.

The witnesses included a woman who cared for Emma Molina Theissen in the days after she escaped military detention, who spoke to her physical and emotional condition.  Another person testified about the forced disappearance of her father, which he witnessed, and two siblings. The third witness described the torture he endured while in … Continue Reading

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