Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence Case
The Case of the Spanish Embassy Fire
The Molina Theissan Case
The Trial of Rios Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez (available here)
1. SEPUR ZARCO SEXUAL VIOLENCE CASE
Lt. Col. Esteelmer Reyes Girón
Esteelmer Reyes Girón purportedly oversaw the Sepur Zarco military installation. His military records record his assignment as Commander of the General Miguel García Granados Military Base in Puerto Barrios, Izabal from July 1982 to October 1984. He remained in the army until June 30, 2004, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel for Artillery. (He denies he had this role, and the military asserts that it has no records of personnel at the military installations during this period.) According to the Sepur Zarco indictment, at Sepur Zarco, Reyes oversaw 50 soldiers at a “recreation” site for ten local military installations and two military zones (No. 21 Antonio José Irisarri; and No. 6 Miguel García Granados). He was eventually transferred out in October 1984. On June 14, 2014, Reyes was captured for crimes in connection with his time at Sepur Zarco. He faces charges of crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence, sexual slavery and domestic slavery against 11 indigenous women; the murder of Dominga Coc; and inhumane treatment for the deaths of the two children of Dominga Coc. He has been in preventive detention since his capture.
Heriberto Valdéz Asig
Heriberto Valdéz Asig is purportedly a former senior military commissioner, known as “El Canche,” who commanded the civil patrols (patrullas de autodefensa civil) in Panzós from April 1982. Military commissioners were paramilitary groups in Guatemala which, according to the REMHI report, the Archbishop’s truth commission report, responded to the army command and “were often responsible for organizing the civil patrols and supervising their activities,” and later, “maintain[ing] military control in communities.” The indictment asserts that, as a military commissioner, Valdéz was part of the army structure, “in hierarchical dependency of the Commander of the Military Reserves” of the CAJDI Military Zone No. 21. (Valdéz denies many of the central facts, including being present and serving as a military commissioner.) According to the indictment, Valdéz was stationed around Sepur Zarco military base from April 1982.
Before serving as a military commissioner, Valdéz was a municipal police officer in Panzós under Flavio Monzón, a large local landowner and former mayor implicated in land theft from indigenous communities during this time. He lived in Panzós until his arrest on June 14, 2014. He now faces charges in connection with his time at and around Sepur Zarco. Valdéz has been in preventive detention since his capture.
- For Col. Reyes: Moisés Galindo (see below) and Ismael García
- For Valdéz: Fidencia Orozco
- Women Transforming the World (Mujeres Transformando El Mundo, or MTM): MTM is a Guatemalan NGO focused on, among other things, sexual violence during the internal armed conflict, and seeking redress for victims of past and contemporary human rights violations in the past and present. Three civil parties represent the Sepur Zarco victims—Women Transforming the World (Mujeres Transformando El Mundo MTM), National Union of Guatemalan Women (Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas, UNAMG) and JALOK U. Jennifer Bravo represents MTM. She has litigated cases related to sexual violence.
- National Union of Guatemalan Women (Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas, UNAMG): UNAMG is an organization which seeks to build organizational capacity for organizations of local women in Guatemala and empower women suffering from violence. Three civil parties represent the Sepur Zarco victims—Women Transforming the World (Mujeres Transformando El Mundo MTM), National Union of Guatemalan Women (Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas, UNAMG) and JALOK U. Gabriela Rivera represents UNAMG in the Sepur Zarco case.
- Colectiva JALOK U: Jalok U is a local organization established in May 2014, prior to the presentation of the Sepur Zarco indictment, by Demecia Yat, a Sepur Zarco survivor named in the indictment. The organization is composed of the victims. Ligia Ovando represents Jalok U.
2. THE CASE OF THE SPANISH EMBASSY FIRE
Lt. Col. Pedro García Arredondo, defendant, was the former chief of the now-defunct National Police Special Investigations Unit, known as Command 6, from August 1978 until August 21, 1980. In August 1980, Arredondo was promoted to head of the detectives corps, but was ousted from his post following the 1982 coup d’etat by Efraín Ríos Montt. In 2012, Arredondo was sentenced to 70 years in prison for the torture and execution of university student Edgar Saenz Calito that took place on September 11, 1980; he remains imprisoned.
Lawyers for the Defendant:
- Moisés Galindo is the attorney for Pedro García Arredondo. He served as chief of the Ministry of Defense budgetary unit during the government of Alfonso Portillo. Following his departure from public office, Galindo has served as defense counsel for various military officers and soldiers, including Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez in the 2013 genocide trial; and Juan Francisco Escobar Blass after he was indicted as an accomplice in the killing of Archbishop Monseñor Juan José Gerardi in 1998. Galindo is currently the lawyer of Byron Lima Oliva, who was convicted to 20 years incarceration for his role in the murder of Archbishop Gerardi; Lima was indicted in 2014 on charges related to running a money laundering ring during his incarceration. Galindo is a prominent member of the Foundation Against Terrorism, run by Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, the son of Ríos Montt’s interior minister.
- Manuel de Jesus Ixmay García is a former military officer who obtained his law license in 2013.
- Sheila Elizabeth García Mora is the state-appointed defense attorney registered in the indictment presented by the prosecution against Pedro García Arredondo.
The Human Rights Prosecution Unit in the Public Ministry is responsible for the case. That unit is headed by Orlando López, who was the lead prosecutor in the 2013 genocide trial of Rios Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez. Hilda Pineda oversees the sub-division dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cases of the internal armed conflict, and is the chief prosecutor in the case.
Civil Parties (Querellantes):
- Rigoberta Menchú is an indigenous Guatemalan of the Quiché-Maya ethnic group and a civil party in the case. She is a leader internationally known for her work on the promotion and defense of human rights and the rights of indigenous people. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, becoming the first indigenous and, at the time, the youngest person ever to receive the award. Menchú’s father Vicente Menchú was one of the victims who died in the fire.
- Sergio Vi, a civil party in this case, is the son of Gaspar Vi Vi, one of the victims of the Spanish Embassy fire. He is a human rights activist and has been very active accompanying victims in their demands of justice in cases related with transitional justice and also indigenous rights.
Lawyers for the Civil Parties:
- Edgar Pérez is the founder and director of the Guatemalan Human Rights Law Firm (Bufete de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala, BDHG) and represents Rigoberta Menchu as civil party in this case. Pérez was one of the first independent lawyers who started litigating complex cases related to transitional justice in Guatemala. His law firm has been nationally and internationally recognized for advancing emblematic cases before the justice system in Guatemala and the Inter-American System.
- Lucia Xilox is a human rights lawyer representing Sergio Vi.
- Francisco Vivar is a human rights lawyer representing Sergio Vi. He has worked with the Guatemalan Human Rights Law Firm (Bufete de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala, BDHG). He was one of the lawyers representing the civil parties in the genocide trial against Efraín Ríos Montt and José Maurício Rodríguez Sanchez.
High Risk Tribunal (El Tribunal Primero de Alto Riesgo):
The Guatemalan high-risk court system was established in 2012 to try complex criminal cases. There are two chambers – A and B. This case is tried by the B chamber, before three judges. Irma Jeannette Valdez is the presiding judge, accompanied by Maria Eugenia Castellanos and Sara Griselda Yoc Yoc. This is the same tribunal assigned to continue the genocide trial of Rios Montt set to begin January 5, 2015.
Miguel Ángel Galvez is the investigative judge of the High Risk Court “B” in Guatemala City responsible for overseeing the preliminary investigative stage of the trial.
- K’iche’ campesinos (22): Mateo Sis, Víctor Gómez Zacarías, Juan Chic Hernández, Mateo López Calvo, Juan José Yos, Maria Ramírez Anai, Regina Pol Cuy, Francisco Chen, Salomón Tavico, Vicente Menchú, María Pinula Lux, Juan Us Chic, Francisco Tun, Trinidad Gómez Hernández, José Ángel Xoná, Gabino Mario Chupé, Juan Tomás Lux, Mateo Sic Chen, Juan López Yac, Gaspar Vi Vi, Felipe Antonio García, María Ramírez Zanai.
- University of San Carlos students (5): Sonia Magalí Welches Valdéz, Luis Antonio Ramírez Paz, Leopoldo Pineda Pedroza, Edgar Rodolfo Negreros, Blanca Lidia Domínguez Girón.
- Diplomatic staff members (9): Jaime Ruíz del Árbol: Spanish consul, Luis Felipe Sanz (Sp), María Teresa Vázquez (Sp), Jaime Ruíz del Arbol Soler, Mary Wilken Molina, María Lucrecia Rivas Fernández de Anleu, Miriam Judith Rodríguez Urrutia, Nora Adela Mena Aceituno, María Cristina Melgar Espinoza.
- Visiting Officials (2): Eduardo Cáceres Lehnhoff: former vice president of Guatemala and member of Instituto Guatemalteco de Cultura Hispánica and Adolfo Molina Orantes, former Foreign Minister and then a judge on the International Court of Justice.
- Survivors of the fire (3): Maximo Cajal y López former Spanish Ambassador to Guatemala (died April 3, 2014). Gregorio Yujá Xoná, indigenous campesino protester who was found by the Red Cross, badly burned and barely alive under a pile of dead bodies; and was later kidnapped from the hospital where he was taken to recover and, on February 2, 1980, thrown lifeless in front of the main building of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala with signs of torture. Mario Aguirre Godoy, distinguished Guatemalan lawyer who escaped early into the occupation before the fire started.
Students shot to death at funeral:
- Gustavo Adolfo Hernández
- Jesús España
Romeo Lucas García, president at the time of the Embassy fire and alleged in the indictment to have directed the embassy siege, along with Donaldo Álvarez Ruiz, then Interior Minister, and Colonel Germán Chupina Barahona, then General Director of the National Police.
Reynaldo Aroldo Paniagua Cordero, Third Chief and Inspector General (Tercer Jefe e Inspector General del Ramo), alleged by the indictment to have directed the operation against the embassy, along with Pedro Garcia Arredondo and Gonzalo Perez Vazquez.
Gonzalo Perez Vazquez, First Chief of the First Corps of the National Police (Primer Jefe del Primer Cuerpo de la Policía Nacional), alleged by the indictment to have directed the operation against the embassy, along with Pedro Garcia Arredondo and Reynaldo Aroldo Paniagua Cordero.
Ricardo Mendez Ruiz is the director of the so-called “Foundation Against Terrorism” (Fundación Contra el Terrorismo), which opposes prosecutions of former miitary officers for grave crimes, and the son of the Interior Minister of former dictator Ríos Montt. During the first phase of the trial, he and his lawyer Moises Galindo (who also represented Rios Montt co-accused Mauricio Sanchez during his genocide trial), sought from the court permission to take part in the trial as civil parties (querrellantes). This was ultimately rejected as too late as it came during the proceedings.
Committee of Campesino Unity (Comité de Unidad Campesino, CUC)
Robin Garcia Revolutionary Student Front, allied with EGP
3. THE MOLINA THEISSEN CASE
- Benedicto Lucas García, former Army chief of staff.
- Manuel Callejas y Callejas, former head of military intelligence and presumed leader of the Cofradía organized crime syndicate.
- Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, commander of Military Zone No. 17 where Emma Molina Theissen was detained in Quetzaltenango in 1981.
- Edilberto Letona Linares, former second commander of Military Zone No. 17.
- Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, former “S-2” intelligence official of the chief of staff.
Lawyers for the Defendants:
- Jorge Lucas Cerna, son of Benedicto Lucas García, and his defense attorney
- Julio Anaya Cardona, defense attorney for Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas
- Alejandro Arriaza, defense counsel for Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez
- Jose Luis Alejo Rodríguez and Jorge Rodrigo Meoño Barillas, defense counsel for Edilberto Letona Linares
- Valdemar Antonio Figueroa, defense counsel for Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas
- The Molina Theissen family is a civil party to the case, represented by lawyer Alejandro Rodríguez.
- Emma Theissen Álvarez de Molina, the victims’ mother, is also a civil party to the case.
- Erick de León
Counsel for the Prosecutor General’s Office:
- Eliseo Humberto Solís Muñoz
- Pre-Trial Judge of High Risk Court “C”: Judge Víctor Herrera Ríos
- Trial Judges of High Risk Court “C”: Judge Pablo Xitumul de Paz (presiding), Judge Eva Marina Recinos Vásquez, and Judge Elvis David Hernández Domínguez