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Dos Erres Massacre: The Case Deepens

April 5, 2011

Ex-Kaibil Jorge Sosa Orantes - Photo courtesy of Calgary Herald

Judge Santiago Pedraz of the Spanish National Court has issued an international arrest warrant for Jorge Sosa Orantes, the Guatemalan ex-Kaibil officer suspected of participation in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre that left more than 250 people dead, according to the Associated Press yesterday. Pedraz moved against Sosa as part of his investigation into Guatemalan genocide and other crimes against humanity in the case filed in Spain in 1999 by Nobel laureate and Guatemalan rights activist Rigoberta Menchú.

The arrest warrant was sent via Interpol on April 1 to authorities in Calgary, Canada, where Sosa has been detained since January on U.S. charges of lying on his citizenship application to the United States in 2008. Although Sosa’s defense lawyer asked in March that his client be released on bail, Judge Suzanne Bensler denied the request, saying Sosa had already proven himself a flight risk. Last September, as the U.S. was preparing to arrest Sosa for naturalization fraud, he fled his home in southern California, first to Mexico and then Canada.

It is not immediately clear how the Canadian government will respond to the Spanish arrest warrant. Sosa was scheduled to appear in a Calgary courtroom on April 20 for a hearing on his extradition to the United States. But Canada, like Spain, recognizes universal jurisdiction and could decide to open its own investigation into Sosa’s alleged role in the Dos Erres massacre. Meanwhile according to a prosecutor in the Guatemala attorney general’s office, the Public Ministry issued extradition requests last year for Sosa and three other ex-Kaibiles connected to Dos Erres who were located in the United States; the requests are still being examined by a Guatemalan court, however.

The National Security Archive has provided declassified US documents and analysis in the Spanish genocide case, including records concerning the 1982 massacre. See a sample of the declassified documents here. Read more about the genocide case in Spain here.

Ex-Kaibil Daniel Martinez Mendez, photo courtesy of Prensa Libre

In other Dos Erres news, Guatemalan authorities detained a different massacre suspect in the eastern department of Chiquimula on March 25. Daniel Martínez Méndez, a former Kaibil instructor, was taken by police to Guatemala City to be held in the Matamoros military prison pending his arraignment. Prensa Libre reported that Judge Carol Patricia Flores of the Juzgado Primero de Alto Riesgo found Martínez should be tried for his role in assassination and crimes against humanity. Martinez Mendez admitted he participated in the operation at Dos Erres, but claimed his job was only to corral the settlement’s residents into the church and school; then he was sent away from the town center to stand guard. “When they called us together again they told me they had buried the residents in a well, but I was not present at the time of the massacre,” he told the newspaper.

One Comment
  1. Rolando Aguilera permalink
    April 8, 2011 3:06 am

    Its amazing to read about the power of archives and archival work in the effort to bring human rights abusers to justice!

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