Justice for Dos Erres:
Jorge Sosa Orantes
In 1982, a special forces unit of the Guatemalan army, known as the Kaibiles, invaded the community of Las Dos Erres and murdered over 250 civilians. The operation was particularly brutal and carried out systematically over three days. Many citizens were killed with a sledgehammer and small children were thrown into a well after being murdered. Of the town's entire population, only two children survived. The massacre was part of a deliberate "scorched earth" campaign implemented by Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
In January 2011, Jorge Sosa Orantes was arrested in Lethbridge, Alberta. An indictment in the United States alleges that Sosa Orantes participated in the massacre and charges him with lying on citizenship forms about his role with the Guatemalan military. The U.S. government requested that Canada detain Sosa Orantes and extradite him to the United States to stand trial. Sosa apparently lived in Alberta several years ago and has also lived in California. He holds both Canadian and U.S. citizenship.
The extradition case is now ongoing. Sosa Orantes will have a bail hearing on February 23, 2011.
The Canadian Centre for International Justice is calling on the Canadian government to investigate whether Sosa Orantes was responsible for war crimes and if so to prosecute him here rather than extraditing him to the United States on lesser charges. Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which implements the principle of "universal jurisdiction," allows his prosecution here even though the crimes occurred in Guatemala.
In addition, cases are currently open in Guatemala and Spain. It remains to be seen whether either of those countries will seek Sosa Orantes' extradition and whether they might provide an opportunity for accountability on the war crimes allegations. The U.S.-based Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) is lead counsel in the Guatemala Genocide Case in Spain. Information about the Spanish prosecution is available on CJA's website.
A groundbreaking decision in 2009 by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the government of Guatemala, despite having accepted responsibility for the Dos Erres massacre, had not complied with its duties to provide justice. The Court ordered Guatemala to take several specific measures to meet its obligations. The Court took on the case based on a 2008 referral from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The referral cites testimony by a member of the Kaibiles that Sosa Orantes was involved in the meeting to plan the Dos Erres operation:
In the first days of December they brought all of us in the patrol of kaibiles together, and they told us what it was that we had to do in "Las Dos Erres." The meeting included Lt. Rivera Martínez, Lt. Adán Rosales Batres, Second Lt. Sosa Orantes, and the other one, Lt. Ramírez, nicknamed "Cocorico." At the meeting they explained to us that they had orders to go to the hamlet of "Las Dos Erres," which was a conflictive zone, and that we had to go to destroy the village, everything that moved had to be killed.
Amicus Foundation is working in cooperation with the Canadian Centre for International Justice to prevent the extradition of Sosa Orantes to the US. For true justice to occur, he must be tried for crimes against humanity. Please sign our petition which will be sent to the Canadian Minister of Justice. We also urge you to write a letter to the minister requesting that Sosa Orantes be held in Canada while the Canadian War Crimes Program conducts an investigation and if evidence warrants it, to charge him with crimes against humanity.
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