International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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High-Profile Molina Theissen Trial to Start in Guatemala in March 2018

The public trial in the high-profile Molina Theissen case will begin on March 1, 2018. The High Risk Court “C,” which will hear the case, notified the parties of this decision last week.

Last March, the pretrial judge charged five retired senior military officers with crimes against humanity for the illegal detention, torture, and rape of Emma Molina Theissen, and for the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, in 1981.

The five officials, all retired, include two heavily decorated generals who were widely believed to be untouchable: former army chief of staff Benedicto Lucas García and Manuel Callejas y Callejas, former head of military intelligence and presumed leader of the Cofradía organized crime syndicate.

Benedicto Lucas García, retired general and former army chief … Continue Reading

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Ríos Montt Genocide Trial Set to Restart on Friday

The trial against former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt and his military intelligence chief José Rodríguez Sánchez for the Maya Ixil genocide is set to restart this Friday, October 13. Both men were prosecuted in this landmark case in 2013; High Risk Tribunal A found Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 80 years in prison, while it acquitted Rodríguez Sánchez of all charges. The Constitutional Court then vacated the ruling in a highly controversial split decision that partially suspended the proceedings, effectively nullifying the verdict, even though the court did not even acknowledge that a verdict had been handed down. Several attempts to relaunch the proceedings have failed.

The genocide case will be … Continue Reading

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Has Guatemala Satisfied the Inter-American Court’s Judgment in the Molina Theissen Case?

During the July 25 hearing in the Molina Theissen case, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGN) requested that the Court admit as evidence the 2004 judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as the Court’s resolution on the supervision of the judgment. According to the PGN, which represents the interests of the state of Guatemala and is a separate institution from the Attorney General’s Office, the Court’s resolution establishes that Guatemala has fully complied with the terms of the 2004 judgment.

IJ Monitor discussed this with Marcela Martino, a lawyer for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), which has represented the Molina Theissen family before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. According to Martino, “It is absolutely … Continue Reading

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Court Ratifies Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Judgment

The High Risk Appellate Court upheld the historic Sepur Zarco judgment this week after unanimously rejecting the three appeals presented by the defense counsel of the two military officials convicted last February in the case. The judges read the summary of the ruling in an open session on Wednesday afternoon.

High Risk Tribunal A, presided over by Judge Yassmín Barrios, handed down the judgment on February 26, 2016. The trial court found Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig, guilty of all charges, sentencing them to 120 and 240 years respectively.

The court sentenced both officials to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity against 14 women who were … Continue Reading

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Court to Rule on Appeal of Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Verdict

On July 19, the High Risk Appellate Court in Guatemala will announce its resolution on three appeals presented by two former military officials convicted last year in the historic Sepur Zarco sexual violence case. The appeals seek to overturn the February 26, 2016 verdict by High Risk Tribunal A, presided over by Judge Yassmín Barrios.

The trial court found Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón, former commander of Sepur Zarco military base, and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig, guilty of all charges, sentencing them to 120 and 240 years respectively.

The trial court sentenced both military officials to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity against 15 women who were the victims of sexual violence and sexual and domestic slavery. In … Continue Reading

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Tied Up in Appeals, CREOMPAZ Enforced Disappearance Case Remains Stalled

More than a year since a judge determined that there is sufficient evidence to send eight retired senior military officials to public trial in the CREOMPAZ enforced disappearance case, the proceedings remain tied up in a series of appeals and other legal motions. Victims’ organizations have told International Justice (IJ) Monitor that they are concerned that the delays in resolving these appeals may be intentional.

CREOMPAZ is a training site for UN peacekeeping operations located in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. During Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, the site was a military base, Military Zone No. 21 (MZ21), at the center of military coordination and intelligence. Since 2012, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office and the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) have exhumed … Continue Reading

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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