A Guatemalan arrested in Alberta is accused of having participated in a massacre - Lawyers Without Borders Urges Canada to Consider Crimes Against Humanity Charges

MONTREAL, Jan. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Following the arrest of a Guatemalan citizen, Mr. Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, in Lethbridge, Alberta, on January 18, 2011, Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC) is bringing Canada's attention to the crimes against humanity that Sosa Orantes is accused of having committed in Guatemala and is urging Canadian authorities to consider the greatest interests of justice and of the victims in assessing Sosa Orantes' situation. 

Sosa Orantes, who also has Canadian and US citizenship, is presently being detained in Calgary, Alberta, in relation to charges of immigration fraud in the United States. But he is, as well, one of the 17 members of the special tactical unit accused of being responsible for the massacre of the community of Dos Erres, in Guatemala.

"Over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during the 36 year long internal armed conflict in Guatemala that officially ended in 1996. The massacre of the community of Dos Erres is one of the more than 650 massacres that occurred in Guatemala during that period and, as is all too common, those responsible for these grave crimes have yet to be brought to justice", said Mr. Pascal Paradis, Executive Director of LWBC.

Sosa Orantes' detention in Canada occurs at a key moment in the Guatemalan legal process. After over a decade of legal hang-ups, and almost 17 years since charges were initially filed, the case of the massacre of Dos Erres is finally in court.

"In assessing Mr. Sosa Orantes' situation and weighing its legal and diplomatic obligations, Canada has to make sure that its decision ultimately allows Mr. Sosa Orantes to be brought to court for the crimes against humanity he allegedly committed", Paradis added. "For the time being, it is doubtful this could happen should he be extradited to the United States. An indictment of Mr. Sosa Orantes under the Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or an extradition to a jurisdiction where he can effectively be prosecuted should therefore be considered. A case exists against Sosa Orantes in Spain. Guatemalan authorities may also ask Canada for his extradition to Guatemala. Canada has to consider the greatest interests of justice. What the victims want is that Mr. Sosa Orantes face effective justice that takes into account the gravity of the crimes he is accused of", Paradis concluded. 

About Lawyers Without Borders Canada: LWBC (www.asfcanada.ca) is an international cooperation non-governmental organization registered as a charity in Canada. Its core mission is to help defend the human rights of the most vulnerable persons and groups by reinforcing access to justice and legal representation. LWBC runs an international cooperation program in Guatemala aiming at reinforcing victims' legal representation for the strategic litigation of human rights abuses.

About the Dos Erres Massacre: Between December 6 and 8, 1982, members of a specially trained counter-insurgency unit of the Guatemalan armed forces, entered the community of Dos Erres.  These army officers removed community members from their homes, gathered them together, and, after raping and torturing some of the women and children, assassinated virtually everyone in the community. The death toll reached more than 250.  The recent advances in the Dos Erres Guatemalan court case can be attributed to the hard work of family members of those killed in the massacre, civil society and prosecutors, as well as that of the Guatemalan human rights lawyers whose work is actively supported by LWBC.

SOURCE Lawyers Without Borders Canada

For further information:

Mrs. Geneviève Villeneuve-Patry
Communications Coordinator, Lawyers Without Borders Canada
Telephone: 418.907.2607
Email:  genevieve.villeneuve-patry@asfcanada.ca

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