International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Bemba Denied Access to Confidential ICC Records on His Financial Status

Jean-Pierre Bemba has been denied access to confidential records on his assets and financial status, which are in the possession of the Registry at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Lawyers for the former Congolese vice president, who is due to receive a fresh sentence for witness tampering, had sought the confidential records to inform their sentencing submissions.

In a May 7 decision, Single Judge Geoffrey Henderson of Trial Chamber III ruled that the circumstances justifying the confidential classification of the filings Bemba sought had not changed. “There being no alternative procedure available at this stage, the ex parte classification thus remains necessary,” he stated.

Citing jurisprudence at the court regarding reclassification of confidential documents, Judge Henderson stated that “complete secrecy” is justified … Continue Reading

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Teacher Describes Lukodi Primary School Students as ‘A Lost Generation’

A long-serving teacher described students at Lukodi Primary School as a lost generation because for the past 14 years only a few have advanced beyond primary school.

Vincent Oyet told the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday, May 2, that these students were taught under adverse conditions and have had a troubled childhood.

Oyet was testifying in the trial of a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Dominic Ongwen. He told the court he has been a teacher at Lukodi Primary School for the past 16 years or so.

He testified about the period between 2002, when he first became a teacher at Lukodi Primary School, and 2006 when he described the security situation in Lukodi as “starting to normalize.” The … Continue Reading

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Witness Talks of Not Being Accepted Back in School After Escaping LRA

On Tuesday, May 1, a witness described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) how he changed schools three times after students and teachers taunted and chased him away for being in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for two years.

Witness V-2 told the court on Tuesday he eventually abandoned school and turned to farming to help his family. Witness V-2 was testifying in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, which resumed on Tuesday after an 18-day break.

The testimony of Witness V-2 marked the beginning of the victims’ phase of the trial. This is after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda formally gave notice on April 13 that the prosecution had concluded presenting its case. The last prosecution witness, psychologist Roland … 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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Why Bemba and His Lawyers Will Receive New Sentences for Witness Tampering

Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba and his two former lawyers with whom he was convicted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will receive new sentences for tampering with witnesses. The two other individuals, who were also convicted in the same trial, had their sentences confirmed by appeals judges.

According to the Appeals Chamber, it became necessary to issue new sentences for Bemba and his former lawyers, Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, once it was established that the trial chamber committed errors in the criteria used to determine their initial sentences.

In March 2017, judges handed down sentences to the trio, who had been convicted in October 2016 for corruptly influencing 14 witnesses and presenting their false evidence before the court. Bemba … Continue Reading

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Bemba Seeks Access to Confidential ICC Records on His Financial Status

Jean-Pierre Bemba is seeking to gain access to all confidential records related to his assets and financial status that are in the possession of the Registry of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The records were filed in the Congolese opposition leader’s main trial in which he was convicted and handed an 18-year prison term. However, Melinda Taylor, who represents him in a separate trial over witness tampering, says these records are needed in preparing sentencing submissions.

In October 2016, Bemba was found guilty of giving false testimony and corruptly influencing witnesses. Trial judges handed him a one-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine. Last month appeals judges upheld the conviction but reversed the sentence imposed on him and two of his … 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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Prosecution Psychologist Says Ongwen Suffered Trauma While in the LRA But Did Not Have a Mental Disorder

A prosecution psychologist criticized how two defense mental health experts concluded Dominic Ongwen had a mental disorder between 2002 and 2005, saying he found their reports contradictory.

Roland Weierstall told the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he testified on Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12, there was no doubt that Ongwen suffered trauma between 2002 and 2005. These years cover the period during which the ICC prosecution alleges Ongwen to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Weierstall told the court Ongwen suffered trauma while he was a member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) but that did not automatically mean he had a mental disorder.

He also said he doubted whether Ongwen had attempted to commit suicide eight times while … Continue Reading

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