International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

The Molina Theissen Trial: Protected Witness Confirms He Saw Emma Molina Theissen in Military Custody

The fifth session of the Molina Theissen trial took place on Wednesday, March 14. Rodolfo Robles Espinoza, a retired Peruvian general who presented his expert testimony on the structure, organization, and doctrine of the Guatemalan military during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) in the previous session of the trial, answered questions posed by the civil parties and the defense lawyers for more than four hours.

Following Robles was protected witness “G” who was a member of the Guatemalan Workers’ Party (PGT). Emma Molina Theissen was a member of the Patriotic Worker Youth (JPT), an affiliate organization of the PGT. Witness “G” testified about the capture and arrest of Emma between September 27 and October 5, 1981 and affirmed that he witnessed … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Military Expert: Senior Military Officials are Responsible for the Crimes against Emma and Marco Antonio Molina Theissen

Adriana Portillo-Bartow, a well-known human rights activist in Guatemala, testified on Tuesday, March 13, in the fourth session of the Molina Theissen trial. The case involves five senior military officers, who are facing charges for the arbitrary detention, torture, and sexual violation of Emma Molina Theissen and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio.

As a witness for the prosecution, Portillo-Bartow’s testimony focused on the enforced disappearance of six members of her family, three of whom were children between the ages of one and 10. Her testimony is one of several that will focus on the military’s practice of enforced disappearance, particularly involving children. The prosecution intends for this to establish that the Guatemalan armed forces engaged in a … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

The Molina Theissen Sisters Testify: “Our Family was Considered Enemies of the State”

“I thought —naively— that because he was a child, they’d have to release him,” María Eugenia Molina Theissen told the court, referring to her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio, who was kidnapped from the family home on October 6, 1981, allegedly by members of the Guatemalan military. She testified that the family believes that the disappearance of Marco Antonio was “an act of reprisal” by the military after her sister Emma escaped from the military base where she was being detained incommunicado. She added that because of the family’s history of opposition to military rule and their militancy in political organizations, the military considered “enemies of the state.”

María Eugenia, followed by her sister Ana Lucrecia, testified in the third day of … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Former Military Intelligence Officer Identified as Kidnapper of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen

Emma Theissen Álvarez de Molina stands and looks over at the holding cell where the five defendants charged in the Molina Theissen case are sitting. The judge asks her if she recognizes any of them. Doña Emma walks closer to get a better look. She stands in front of Hugo Zaldaña Rojas and points to him.

“The man who is sitting on the far left,” she says, quietly but firmly. “That is him.” She says, “His face is forever recorded in my memory” as the one of the three men who raided her home that fateful day on October 6, 1981 and kidnapped her 14-year-old son Marco Antonio Molina Theissen.

Earlier on Monday, March 5, Doña Emma had described to the court … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

The Long Path to Justice: Trial Opens against Senior Military Officials in the Molina Theissen Case

On March 1, 2018, the long-awaited trial in the critical Molina Theissen case opened. Five retired senior military officers face charges of crimes against humanity for the illegal detention, torture, and rape of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, in 1981.

The plaintiffs allege that the disappearance of Marco Antonio was an act of revenge to punish the Molina Theissen family after Emma, a political activist, managed to escape from the Manuel Lisandro Barillas military base in Quetzaltenango, also known as Military Zone No. 17 (MZ17), where she was being detained. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the State of Guatemala responsible for the disappearance of Marco Antonio in … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

Much Anticipated Molina Theissen Trial Begins in Guatemala City

Today, in High Risk Court “C” in Guatemala City, the trial of five retired senior military officers has begun. All five are facing charges of crimes against humanity for the 1981 illegal detention, torture, and rape of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen.

This trial is significant because it involves the prosecution former leaders in the military that were once considered untouchable. It is also an opportunity to learn more about how the military used sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon during the civil conflict in Guatemala.

International Justice Monitor’s long time trial monitor Jo-Marie Burt is on the ground in Guatemala City following the hearings, and we will be … Continue Reading

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment