Guatemalan appeals court orders release of military officers convicted of crimes against humanity in the Molina Theissen case

Published by Brent Patterson on

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PBI-Guatemala photo (April 18, 2016): “We observe the press conference convened by the Molina Theissen family seeking justice for the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen and the illegal detention, torture and rape suffered by his sister Emma at the hands of the Guatemalan army.”

The Associated Press reports: “A Guatemalan appeals court on Friday [June 9] disobeyed a ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by ordering the release of three former high-ranking military officers convicted of crimes against humanity.”

“It’s not the first time that Guatemala authorities have disregarded rulings by the court – they’ve been condemned for it 14 times before. …But it’s the first case Guatemala authorities have done so in a situation that involves releasing prisoners already convicted of serious crimes.”

The article continues: “In 2018, the men were sentenced to between 33 and 58 years in prison for crimes against humanity, the forced disappearance of a 14-year-old boy and the violent rape of his sister.”

Benedicto Lucas García and Manuel Antonio Callejas had been sentenced to 58 years in prison for crimes against the duties of humanity (25 years); enforced disappearance (25 years) and aggravated rape (8 years). Francisco Gordillo Martínez was sentenced to 33 years of imprisonment for crimes against the duties of humanity and rape with aggravated penalty. Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña, sentenced to 58 years in prison could also benefit from the appeals court ruling. Edilberto Letona Linares was acquitted of all charges.

Photo: Francisco Gordillo Martinez, Hugo Ramiro Zaldana, Manuel Antonio Callejas and Edilberto Letona Linares.

Further reading: Molina Theissen Case: Chamber Fails to Comply with Inter-American Court Ruling and Releases Convicted Military Personnel (Prensa Comunitaria, June 9, 2023)

In August 2020, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the family in the Molina Theissen case looking for justice.”

The Guardian has provided the context: “[On September 27, 1981, 21-year-old social and political activist Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen] was taken for interrogation to a military base in Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala, but refused to collaborate.”

“She was given electric shocks to the eyelids, was raped by her captors, and deprived of food and water to create sensory disorientation. Emma escaped by slipping through the cell railings because she had lost so much weight.”

“She fled to Mexico a few weeks later, unaware that her little brother [14-year-old Marco Antonio Molina Theissen] had been taken [on October 6, 1981], most likely in retaliation for her audacious escape.”

Photo: Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen (left) and her mother Emma Theissen Álvarez de Molina hold a photo of Marco Antonio.

In April 2016, PBI-Guatemala noted: “This month we observed the Molina Thiessen family press conference.” And in October 2017, PBI-Guatemala further noted: “The Molina Thiessen trial will begin on March 1, 2018.”

On May 23, 2018, four soldiers were convicted of crimes against humanity and aggravated sexual abuse against Emma. Three of them were also found guilty of the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio. The three received a sentence of 58 years in prison, while one was sentenced to 33 years.

The body of Marco Antonio has not been found.

Commenting on the appeals court decision last week to release the three military officers, Jovita Tzul, lawyer for the Molina Thiessen family, stated that it was “a regrettable resolution, which generates serious setbacks in terms of human rights”.

Excerpt from April 2016 PBI-Guatemala monthly information pack.

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