International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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

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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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