As several grave war crimes cases have been temporarily suspended, the lawyer of five senior military officials convicted in the Molina Theissen case (including Benedicto Lucas García and Manuel Callejas y Callejas) made another attempt to release convicted war criminals, this time using the pandemic as an excuse. Survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict see this as a new attempt to gain impunity and released this statement:




Currently, Guatemalan society faces a crisis in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As thousands of survivors of genocide respect the social distancing promoted by the State of Calamity, with limited access to methods of communication and deprived of their rights to food, work and health; we are deeply concerned of the intentions to leave prison of four condemed military and one military in preventative detention for serious human rights violations during the war. 

It is concerning that sectors linked to impunity interests have presented an injunction at the Constitutional Court, requesting that those five ex-soldiers benefit with house arrest, the argument being to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. This crisis situation is being used to facilitate impunity and to dodge the law in the respective sentences and open processes for serious universal crimes.

This is not the first time that actions were made to change the situation of the condemned and to avoid their condition of reclusion. Therefore we express our disagreement and complete rejection of the requests. We insist that the magistrates of the Constitutional Court reject the injunction raised, as it intends to grant priviledges incompatible with the gravity of the crimes they committed: sexual violence, genocide and forced disappearances, which continue to be felt as long as the victims remain missing. 

  • Ex-soldiers Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas, Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez and Benedicto Lucas García were tried and convicted in a high risk court, where it was proved that they commited forced disappearances, sexual violence and crimes against humanity in the Molina Theissen case. While their sentence determined by judicial order that they would be assigned to the Mariscal Zavala jail, they were dispatched to the military hospital during the health crisis – what already constitutes a privilege over others in jail.
  •  Ex-soldier Raúl Dehesa Oliva is in preventive detention in the case of Military Zone No. 21–CREOMPAZ. Though Benedict Lucas García is already convicted in the Molina Theissen case, he also faces other judicial processes for which he is in preventative detention: the CREOMPAZ CASE and the Maya Ixil genocide case (1978-1982), in which Manuel Antonio Callejas is also processed. In both cases, the respective judges ruled to keep them in preventive detention due to the seriousness of the accused crimes, as well as the possibility of escape.
  •  The sanctions for the crimes against humanity committed by these ex-soldiers must be proportional to their crimes. According to this, measures such as house arrest are not acceptable. On the contrary,they would constitute a new instrument of impunity.

It is the responsibility of the Guatemalan state, specifically the Penitentiary System and the Ministry of Health, to guarantee the health and life of persons deprived of liberty within the very facilities intended for their confinement under strict isolation. Additionally, house arrest does not guarantee a better condition for the health of these people. The background of these ex-military personnel demands that they remain in their detention center. 




Guatemala, April 17, 2020

Read the statement in Spanish here

Image first part of the comunicado
second page of the comunicado