Alleged war criminal awaits court in Calgary, Canada

Man with Canadian citizenship faces charges in U.S., Guatemala

An accused war criminal sitting in a Calgary holding cell will appear in court Thursday morning.

Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa, 52, is wanted in Guatemala in the killing of 251 men, women and children during the Central American nation's civil war in the early 1980s.

Sosa, who has both Canadian and American citizenship, was arrested Tuesday morning in Lethbridge, Alta., on charges he faces in the U.S. for making a false statement relating to naturalization and unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization.

Kristen Harding, spokeswoman for Lethbridge police, said they were contacted by RCMP in October 2010 for help locating Sosa if he visited Lethbridge.

Harding said Sosa had been under surveillance and at the time of the arrest was visiting acquaintances. About eight officers made the arrest.

"I was out shovelling the snow, of course, and noticed an individual walking this way. And suddenly a black van appeared and a number of officers ... jumped out of the van and instructed the individual to halt and lay down," said Allan Jarvie, a Lethbridge resident who saw the arrest. "It was very quick."

Harding said Sosa, a karate expert who lives in Riverside, Calif., was compliant with police.

Sosa led commando unit: indictment

Sosa is one of 17 men sought by the Guatemalan government for their alleged involvement in the commando unit responsible for the massacre at a village called Dos Erres in December 1982, said Claudia Samayoa of the Guatemalan human rights group, UDEFEGUA.

"They obliged the men to see how the kids and the women were killed and in the process they raped the women," said Samayoa.

An indictment by the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleges that Sosa was the commanding officer of the special patrol sent to the village.

"The special patrol proceeded to systematically kill the men, women and children at Dos Erres, by among other methods, hitting them in the head with a sledgehammer and throwing them into a well," reads the indictment obtained by The Canadian Press.

"Members of the special patrol also forcibly raped many of the women and girls before killing them. Defendant Jorge Sosa participated in the crimes committed at Dos Erres, including but not limited to murder."

Canadian prosecution urged

Kate Doyle, a senior analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America with the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said another former member of the commando unit was tracked down by a U.S. Justice Department task force after becoming a U.S. citizen.

That man, who was living in Florida, was given a 10-year prison sentence for lying on his citizenship application, said Doyle.

A spokesman for the Canadian Centre for International Justice in Ottawa said Canada should refuse to extradite Sosa and should prosecute him for war crimes in Canada instead of gambling on his eventual return to Guatemala, which he says is a very difficult country to get war crimes cases started.

"In this particular circumstance we have the legislation here in Canada to prosecute him for war crimes and it would be good to see that done," said Matt Eisenbrandt, legal co-ordinator for the centre.

An official with the U.S. Justice Department said it usually takes about 60 days to resolve an extradition request once an individual is arrested.

[Source: CBC News, Canada, 19Jan11]

Tienda de Libros Radio Nizkor On-Line Donations

DDHH en Guatemala
small logoThis document has been published on 02Ago11 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.