International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Judge to Rule on Former Army Chief’s Indictment and New Sexual Assault Charges in Molina Theissen Case

The next hearing in the Molina Theissen case is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25. Judge Víctor Hugo Herrera Ríos will determine whether to charge retired general Benedicto Lucas García with the crimes of forced disappearance, crimes against humanity, and aggravated sexual assault. He will also determine whether to accept the charges of aggravated sexual assault against the other four defendants, who were formally indicted on January 13, 2016 by the Fifth Criminal Court Judge Judith Secaida. The case has since been transferred to High Risk Court “C” and is being heard by Judge Herrera Ríos. (For background on the case, see Grave Crimes Brief: The Molina Theissen Case.)

The new charges against the original four defendants — retired military officials Hugo … Continue Reading

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Molina Theissen Case: Former Guatemalan Army Chief Testifies

Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, a former chief of the Guatemalan army, has now given his first statement before Judge Víctor Hugo Herrera Ríos of the High Risk Tribunal “C”, in proceedings for the illegal capture, detention and torture of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio. Lucas García was head of the High Command of the Guatemalan Army (Estado Mayor del Ejército) between August 15, 1981 and March 22, 1982, when his brother, Romeo Lucas García, served as de facto president. Benedicto Lucas García is being charged as the intellectual author of the crimes committed against the Molina Theissen siblings. He was arrested on January 6 in relation to the CREOMPAZ case, and … Continue Reading

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War Crimes Prosecutions Update: The CREOMPAZ Case

On September 14, 2016, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in an attempt to reverse a lower court ruling that would exclude several of the criminal charges brought in the CREOMPAZ case, as well as prevent two senior former military officials from facing trial.

The CREOMPAZ trial relates to alleged crimes against humanity committed during Guatemala’s 36-year civil conflict. Among the accused are some of the most notorious military officers from the counterinsurgency years, including Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, who was head of the General High Command of the Guatemalan Army during the military regime led by his brother, Fernando Romeo Lucas García (1978-82), who is also being investigated in relation to the Molina Theissen case.

Prosecutors … Continue Reading

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Benedicto Lucas García Charged in Molina Theissen Case

Over the course of two hearings in August, the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office presented additional charges against the four high-ranking military officials who were arrested on January 6, 2016, for the illegal capture, detention, and torture of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen and for the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. In addition, they brought charges against a new defendant: retired army general Benedicto Lucas García.

Lucas García is the brother of former dictator Romeo Lucas García and was head of the High Command of the Guatemalan Army (Estado Mayor del Ejército) between August 15, 1981 and March 22, 1982. He is currently being prosecuted, along with seven other military officers, in the CREOMPAZ case and has been … Continue Reading

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