• Guatemala Four soldiers convicted of missing child and raping his sister during civil war

The First Chamber of Appeals of Higher Risk of Guatemala ordered this Friday to release and decree the house arrest of three retired military officers who were convicted in 2018 for the disappearance in 1981 of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, 14, and the kidnapping, torture and rape of his sister, Enma Guadalupe Molina Theissen. In this way, the Chamber complied with the order of the Supreme Court of Justice to execute the sentence of the Constitutional Court (CC) issued on March 6 in the sense that three soldiers were favored with house arrest, although this decision could also benefit a fourth military officer involved in the same process.

This measure has favored former Chief of Staff Benedicto Lucas García, brother of former Guatemalan President Romeo Lucas García, Major General and former head of Military Intelligence Manuel Antonio Callejas, and Commander Francisco Gordillo Martínez. The first two had been sentenced to 58 years' imprisonment for crimes against the duties of humanity (25 years); enforced disappearance (25 years) and aggravated rape (8 years). Meanwhile, Gordillo Martínez was sentenced to 33 years of imprisonment for crimes against the duties of humanity and rape with aggravated penalty. Army General Staff officer Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña, sentenced to 58 years in prison, could also benefit.

Lucas García, Callejas and Gordillo had filed several appeals against the sentence issued by the High Risk Court C, which, because of them, five years later is still not final. In addition, in 2020, the military had requested the First Chamber of the Court of High Risk Appeals to review the sentences and grant them house arrest, although they were denied on the grounds that the criminal types for which they had been convicted do not contemplate alternative measures.

Subsequently, they went to the Supreme Court of Justice that also did not grant them provisional protection, so they filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court that on March 6 decided to grant them provisional protection. In this way, he requested that they be granted house arrest, despite the seriousness of the crimes for which they were convicted, since their state of health and advanced age had to be considered, taking into account that the three have been detained in the Military Hospital.


However, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights tried to stop the release by issuing a resolution on March 24 in which it required the State of Guatemala to "prevent irreparable damage to the right of access to justice of the victims of the Molina Theissen v. Guatemala refrains from executing the decision issued by the CC until this international court can decide on the request for provisional measures" in the session that was scheduled to take place between April 17 and 29.

This resolution had its consequences and on April 20, the First Chamber of High Risk Appeals decided to comply with the dictates of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to avoid contravening international conventions and treaties assumed by the State of Guatemala. It was useless, given that this Thursday, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the First Chamber of Higher Risk Appeals to execute the sentence issued by the CC in which it was ordered to benefit with house arrest the three soldiers convicted in the Molina Theissen case. According to the resolution of the CSJ, the Chamber had a period of five days to comply with the decision and release them while it is known if their prison sentence becomes final.

It should be recalled that, in November 2022, the Molina Theissen family went to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to denounce that the State of Guatemala had failed to search for the child's remains and to pursue justice, since, although there was a sentence issued in 2018, the conviction is not firm due to the appeals presented by the military.

Already in 2004, the Inter-American Court issued a judgment for the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, declaring the State of Guatemala responsible for the violation of multiple rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of the child and his family. Specifically, it ordered several reparations, which include the obligation of the State of Guatemala to search for the victim and investigate all the facts, identify, prosecute and punish the material and intellectual authors.

Subsequently, on January 6, 2016, five military personnel were arrested for these events and were tried and sentenced on May 23, 2018. Of these, only one, the second commander of the Army Edilberto Letona Linares was acquitted of all charges considering that he had no responsibility in the facts, while the three mentioned soldiers were sentenced to sentences of between 33 and 58 years in prison, as well as the officer of the Army General Staff Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña.

Despite Friday's court decision, only Gordillo will be able to leave prison while Lucas and Callejas must remain preventively in jail as they are accused in other cases. Specifically, Benedicto Lucas and Manuel Antonio Callejas will also be tried accused of forced disappearance for their involvement in the Creompaz case, which became known after the Forensic Anthropology Foundation discovered in 2012 a total of 565 bones. They corresponded to indigenous people who, after being interrogated, tortured and executed, were buried between 1981 and 1988 in mass graves in Military Zone 21 of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, now called the Regional Peacekeeping Operations Training Command (Creompaz).

Likewise, Lucas, 90, and Callejas, 86, are accused of genocide, enforced disappearance and crimes against humanity in another case, whose trial began on January 9. The Prosecutor's Office accuses them of ordering military operations where around 1,421 people of the Mayan Ixil people were killed during the government of Romeo Lucas García (1978-1982). At that time, Lucas was the chief of staff of the Army and Callejas served as head of Military Intelligence.


The first case for which they were convicted, that of Molina Theissen, was paradigmatic of the atrocities that were committed during the civil war that devastated Guatemala between 1960 and 1996 between the Army and the guerrillas, leaving a balance of 200,000 people dead and 45,000 disappeared, the vast majority (93 percent) attributed to the military. according to the United Nations Historical Clarification Commission.

Judge Pablo Xitumul, who convicted the four soldiers, said at the time that it was perfectly demonstrated that on September 27, 1981, Enma Guadalupe Molina Theissen was illegally detained at a military checkpoint located in the department of Sololá for carrying documents that were described by the Army as "propaganda for study and political discussion" at a time when the Government was maintaining an armed conflict against the guerrillas. especially in the interior of Guatemala.

After her arrest, she was transferred to the General Manuel Lizandro Barillas military base, where, according to the magistrate, "she was subjected to interrogations through torture and individual and collective rape for nine days in which she suffered cruel and degrading treatment." Subsequently, Enma Guadalupe managed to escape from her "illegal and clandestine" captivity on October 5, 1981, so her captors "ordered through the military intelligence channel the execution of an immediate search and recapture operation both in Quetzaltenango and in Guatemala City."

This operation, as detailed by the magistrate, consisted of illegally raiding the family home, located in the capital of Guatemala, on October 6 of that year and when they did not find it inside, three soldiers in civilian clothes "decided to deprive his brother Marco Antonio Molina Theissen of his freedom." "Since then, despite the unwavering efforts of the family, the whereabouts of the victim are still unknown," he said.

After escaping from this hell, the military tried to find her and when it was not possible, they retaliated against her brother. Only his mother witnessed how he was taken away and 42 years later she sees how those responsible for his kidnapping receive alternative measures to prison. Like many people in Guatemala, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen's mother will still not be able to hug her son or at least bury him with dignity, given that the military responsible for his disappearance has refused to confess where they hid his body.

On March 10, nine international organizations, including Impunity Watch and the Center for Justice and International Law, warned of the "new attempt to leave the crimes committed in the Molina Theissen case unpunished" and denounced that the release of the military would constitute a "serious setback to compliance with the orders of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights."

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