Two Canadian groups call for ex-Guatemalan soldier accused in the Dos Erres massacre to be prosecuted for war crimes

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On June 16, the Associated Press reported: “Two activist groups called for Canada’s government to prosecute a man believed to be living in Canada who they say was involved in the massacre of more than 200 people in Guatemala in 1982.”

“Lawyers Without Borders Canada (ASFC) and the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (PCJI) said at a news conference that Canada shouldn’t become a retirement destination for alleged war criminals and that he should be prosecuted [in Canada] for crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

That article adds: “The Canadian government has said in court filings it believes Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes was a senior member of a military special forces unit and directed other soldiers as they tortured, raped and killed villagers. It also alleges he threw a grenade and fired a gun into a well where victims, some still alive, had been thrown.”

The Canadian Press adds: “Pascal Paradis, the executive director of Lawyers Without Borders Canada, told a virtual news conference that by prosecuting Sosa Orantes under its Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, Canada would demonstrate its commitment to fighting impunity for war criminals.”

Fannie Lafontaine, the executive director of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice, has further noted that if the Canadian government doesn’t act it’s unlikely Sosa Orantes will face justice for his alleged crimes.

The Lawyers Without Borders Canada and Canadian Partnership for International Justice media conference can be seen here. Their media release is here.

Massacre at Dos Erres village

Sosa Orantes is accused of participating in the massacre in Dos Erres. The BBC has previously reported: “More than 200 people were killed in the village of Dos Erres in 1982, one of the most violent episodes in Guatemala’s brutal 36-year conflict.”

That BBC article explains: “The Kaibiles [were] a US-trained counter-insurgency force fighting left-wing guerrillas. …The special unit of the Guatemalan army stormed the village in the north of the country on 6 December 1982.”

Last month, the Associated Press reported: “The slaughter went unpunished for years — even after Guatemalan authorities issued 17 arrest warrants. In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded the country prosecute the perpetrators.”

While five former soldiers have been sentenced in this crime, ProPublica has noted: “Six others have eluded capture, some of them aided by Guatemalan security forces whose power has impeded the quest for justice, according to Guatemalan and U.S. investigators.”

Current trial in Guatemala

On June 16, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) in the first statement hearing against ex-Kaibil José Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales for the massacre at Dos Erres in 1982 in the municipality of Libertad, Petén.”

Ortiz Morales was deported by the United States to face trial in Guatemala.

PBI-Guatemala began to accompany BDH lawyer Édgar Pérez Archila in August 2010 due to several security incidents. In 2013, PBI-Guatemala extended the accompaniment to the other lawyers of the BDH who work on high-profile trials.

PBI-Guatemala accompanied human rights lawyers to a hearing on June 16 for an ex-soldier accused of participating in the Dos Erres massacre.

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