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Justice retrieval in Guatemala has the face of a woman

Women are leading the efforts to return rights that have been snatched away, to reject fear and to re-evaluate the truly guilty parties of criminal acts in Guatemala. Español

From left to right, Emma Miolina, her mother and her sister. On their chest, the picture of the disaperaed Marco Antonio. Photo: Radio Media Naranja. Some rights reserved.

High Risk Court C recently condemned 3 retired servicemen to 58 years in prison and one soldier to 33 years for the disappearance of minor Marco Antonio Theissen, and the kidnapping, torture and rape of his sister, Emma Guadalupe Molina.

In Guatemala, 5000 children were disappeared during the civil war that occurred during 1960 and 1996. The individuals sentenced are Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, Manuel Antonio Callejas, Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, and Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas.

The story goes like this:

Once upon a time in a country of colours, a girl of 15 years old wanted to change the world. Thoughts of misery, injustice, and revolution filled her head.

Her terror was so great that she couldn’t even find the strength to feel anger or hatred towards the people who did what they did. The damage is both profound and permanent.

Thus, she decided to distribute propaganda and information about the circumstances in which her community were living. It was the worst moment of all to engage in such an act however; the army had begun the scorched-earth tactic, which meant literally leaving no stone unturned.

Many victims came from the Maya Ixil population from the province of Quiché. Emma, militant for a guerrilla organisation, the Guatemalan Workers Party, was detained with political propaganda on her.

They transported her to the military base in Quetzaltenango where members of the armed forces tortured her, raped her and subjected her to all types of ill treatments in order to destroy her physically and mentally.

Among the few occurences in life considered to be miracles, Emma Molina managed to escape from captivity of the 9th day by walking around the base and leaving through a gatehouse. She thinks the soldiers confused her for a prostitute. Her flight came to the conclusive stage with her trip from Guatemala to Mexico.

The revolutionary felt victorious after managing to trick her captors. But 6 months later her life turned around when she discovered that one day after her escape, members of the army had arrived at her home.

As they hadn’t found her, they took her 14 year old brother, Marco Antonio, with tape over his mouth, as if they feared this boy could actually ask for help in a land ruled by fear of resistance to the military. He never appeared again.

Depression begun seeping through Emma’s life and wouldn’t let her go for more than 3 decades, during which time she contemplatd suicide on several occasions. She couldn’t cope with carrying the weight of the guilt for her brother’s disappearance.

Rationally, she knew she wasn’t responsible but this didn’t help much. Nor did insistence from family members that it wasn’t her fault, as the voice in her head proclaiming her guilt was always shouting louder. 

What has already been suffered can never be erased. Emma calls it a gruesome mark on her life. Her terror was so great that she couldn’t even find the strength to feel anger or hatred towards the people who did what they did. The damage is both profound and permanent.

The repressors take care of inducing guilt in their victims and they acchieve it, because there was nobody to stand up and say that the victims are right, they’re telling the truth.

The repressors take care of inducing guilt in their victims and they acchieve it, because there was nobody to stand up and say that the victims are right, they’re telling the truth. The destruction of dignity was on such a scale that the victims begun to believe they didn’t even deserve justice. This is what has now changed.

In Emma Molina's words:

It’s through this process of justice that I have managed to undo myself from the guilt. It’s the state finally saying sorry. Sorry for what we did to you, the irreparable damage, and we are going to try to repair this by placing the responsibility upon those to whom it truly belongs. 

It has been such a restorative process that I already feel satisfied with what has been done so far. 

Beyond the sentence given to the soldiers, the possibility of telling the truth and receiving solidarity as a result, and a wave of love and support from thousands of Guatemalans, is what really cures.

Injustices should be faced in two ways: 1, placing responsibility where it truly belongs, and 2, repairing the soul. Listening to people say they’re sorry, they stand with you, they are horrified at what the state has done to you goes someway to achieving this.

Now we have a legal resolution that has ordered the state to search for the remains of my brother. With both national and international support, we will continue this life-long effort”.

Upon reading the sentence, judge Pablo Xitumul de Paz claimed the accused were responsible for rape and crimes against humanity, that their crimes should not be brushed aside in a climate of impunity.

He added that to claim there was no internal war but only a confrontation between the army and the guerrilla is an unsustainable argument as the conflict included the civilian population which was later attacked without mercy. 

Emma Molina, who refused stubbornly to present her case before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, was finally convinced she should speak up about what truly happened. In this search for persuasion the case of the women of Sepur Zarco has a significant influence.

They inspired her to speak out against what occurred. They went to the tribunal to tell their story of sexual slavery in a humble community. 

The conflict in Guatemala included the civilian population, which was later attacked without mercy. 

The result of the Sepur Zarco process along with Emma’s fractured the tradition of impunity that reins over the Central American country. Thelma Aldana, prosecutor, and the UN are participants in the process of democratic normalisation and justice recuperation.

There’s justice anxiety over the sentencing of ex-president Otto Pérez Molina and other officials from the state. It’s progress but not enough in the face of what must still be reached in order to re-establish normality: victims are victims and delinquents are delinquents.

Women are the protagonists of the efforts to return rights that have been snatched away, to recover dignity, to reject fear, to re-evaluate who the truly guilty parties are.

About the author

José Zepeda is a Chilean-Dutch journalist, currently working at Radio Media naranja, in the Netherlands. He is the former head of the Latin American Department of the Dutch International broadcaster Radio Netherlands. He has been a guest lecturer at various universities in Latin America and international organisations, and has received two honorary doctorates from universities in Paraguay and Mexico for his dedication to the defence of human rights.

José Zepeda es un periodista chileno-holandés, actualmente trabaja para Radio Media Naranja, de Holanda. Fue director del Departamento latinoamericano de la Radio Netherlands. Ha sido conferenciante en varias universidades en Latinoamérica y en organizaciones internacionales, e investido doctor honoris causa por universidades de Paraguay y México por su dedicación a la defensa de los derechos humanos.

 


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