A court in Guatemala handed sentences between 33 and 58 years in prison to former military officers involved in the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen and the raping of his sister Emma Guadalupe in 1981.
After a 17-hour long session on Wednesday early morning, the Tribunal C of Mayor Risk in Guatemala declared ex-Joint Chief of Staff Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia, ex-Chief of Military Intelligence Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas and ex-Officer of Military Intelligence Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas guilty of the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, who was 14 years old at the time, sentenced them to 25 years in prison and ordered to continue the search of the missing person.
Besides, the same military officers, along with Quetzaltenango's ex-Commander Francisco Luis Gordillo Martinez, were also charged for crimes against humanity and the illegal detention and raping of Emma Molina Guadalupe Theissen and sentenced to 33 years in prison. Edilberto Letona Linares, second commander, was found not guilty on all charges as the tribunal couldn't prove his participation in the crime.
"Four of the five accused of crimes against humanity waiting for the begining of the trail in the Molina Theissen case. #WeChooseToLive #JusticeMolinaTheissen"
Pablo Xitumul de Paz, president of the tribunal, declared that the military officers could have “acted in a different way, but preferred not to comply with human rights and the law that prohibits what they did.”
“This offends every human being and that shouldn’t remain unpunished,” said Xitumul, who also explained that the army involved the civil population in an internal war to “attack it without mercy as they did.”
On Sept. 27, 1981, Emma Molina was detained at a military checkpoint in Santa Lucia Utatlan, Solola, for hiding anti-government and leftist political propaganda. She was taken to General Manuel Lisandro Barillas Zona in Quetzaltenango. After nine days of being tortured and raped, she managed to escape from her captors.
On Oct. 6, three soldiers dressed as civilians arrived to the house of Molina Theissen family looking for Emma, but took her brother Marco Antonio instead as they didn't find her. The mother of both, Emma Theissen Alvarez de Molina, was a witness to the whole ordeal.
Marco Antonio has been missing since then. In Monday's hearing, Emma Molina said she feels “shame, disgust and pain” for what happened, and said she had even considered her escape a mistake that led to the disappearance of her brother, for which she even thought of killing herself.
“To the accused I give them back the shame, the terror. I leave them with their hate, because one needs a lot of hate to do what they did to us,” said Emma Molina.
Guatemala's government admitted its responsibility for the case in April 2004 and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered a search for Marco Antonio a sentence for those responsible.
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, who is the brother of former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, followed the trial on video conference from a military hospital. The other accused officers were present at the court.
Between 1954 and 1996 and under the pretext of a civil war between the military and insurgent groups, the Guatemalan juntas killed more than 200,000 people, 83 percent of which were Indigenous Mayans, and disappeared tens of thousands with the assistance of the U.S. and Israel.
The Molina Theissen case became a landmark in the struggle against impunity in Guatemala and the sentence gives hope to thousands that are still in search for justice.