It has taken 37 years for the five ex-military leaders to face justice for the forced disappearance of the 14 year old Marco Antonio Molina Theissen and the rape and torture of his sister, Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen. They are now old men, most of them in their eighties.
The charge against them is that the accused were part of the military hierarchy and, as such, ordered, put in motion, and directed the actions against the Molina Theissen siblings.
Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez was the Commander of the Manuel Lisandro Barillas military base in Queztaltenango, where the then 21-year-old political activist, Emma Molina Theissen, was held for nine days after being snatched from a bus by a military squad.
Edilberto Letona Linares was the Sub-commander of the military base. Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas was the intelligence officer in the base and took part in the snatching of the young woman.
Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas was the Director of Military Intelligence (G2) and Manuel Benedicto Lucas García was the Chief of the General Staff of the army.
The five are facing charges for the arbitrary detention, torture, and sexual violation of Emma Molina Theissen and the enforced disappearance of her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio.
What ties each of the accused together is the ‘chain of command’, the invisible but necessary operational aspect that allows the military to function as it does, and expert witnesses provided evidence of how this works in a Latin America context as well as in a Guatemala one. Underlying this was the view of the Guatemalan people as the internal enemy, where the words being used to describe actions against them as, annihilate, sweep away, stamp out etc.
They defined the ‘internal enemy’ as being those persons, communist or not, who threatened the established order, and this included non-combatants. In effect, what you had was a military rampaging on behalf of the elites to enforce the latter’s inbred sense of entitlement based on greed, racism, misogyny, a denial of dissent, and a hatred (fear) of the poor.
The Molina Theissen family was a victim of this.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the State of Guatemala responsible for the disappearance of Marco Antonio in 2004, and ordered the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible.
It is alleged that the disappearance of Marco Antonio was an act of revenge to punish the Molina Theissen family after Emma managed to escape from the Manuel Lisandro Barillas military base (MZ17), where she was being detained.
Emma was detained on the 27th September 1981 at the Cuatro Caminos junction and taken to the base in Quetzaltenango where, after suffering rape and torture for eight days, she was able to escape through a window. On the 6th October 1981, the day after her escape, the soldiers came to the family home, grabbed and trussed Marco Antonio, struck his mother, and took him out to a pick-up with official plates. He was never seen again.
The trial opened on 1st March 2018, in Guatemala City, and with it, the family’s search for justice is now within reach.
The trial testimony has so far included expert witnesses describing aspects of ‘chain of command’, and the use of torture by the Guatemala military. Also, the search for the remains of Marco Antonio through testimony by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala – FAFG), uncovered the remains of 777 young people found in various burial places, in cemeteries and military installations. It was also noted that 1981, the year of Marco Antonio’s disappearance, saw a significant rise in the numbers of violent deaths registered in the morgue, as well an increase in the numbers of adoptions of Guatemalan children.
A psychologist, who has examined hundreds of victims of torture and who also examined Emma testified as to the effects of her incarceration.
He confirmed that there were signs of deep depression through post-traumatic stress, amongst other consequences, and recommended that she not be submitted to more examinations as it would run the risk of inducing a sense of revictimisation and provoking a relapse in her clinical condition. He said not to expect that Emma is cured, this is not possible, but nevertheless, it is to be hoped that she will not suffer more damage, as it would be easy to suffer a relapse and so cause increased emotional damage.
On the eleventh day, Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen took the stand, by video link, where she spoke about her captivity and her escape, and affirmed that she has chosen to live (Hemos elegido vivir).
You can follow the trial proceedings on the International Justice Monitor website, as well as the Prensa Comunitaria website. Material for this short piece courtesy of the above, Plaza Pública and Medium.