USA: Guatemalan soldier accused of massacre must face justice

The USA must charge or extradite a former Guatemalan soldier involved in a massacre in his home country, Amnesty International said.

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes was sentenced to 10 years in prison for omitting to mention his membership of an army unit which killed more than 200 people in the town of Dos Erres in 1982, while applying for citizenship in the USA.

“In addition to immigration violations, Sosa Orantes has a case to answer for war crimes. The US authorities must extradite him to Guatemala or prosecute him in the USA for crimes against international law,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

“Governments across the world have a responsibility to ensure those suspected of having committed human rights abuses face justice, wherever they are.”

Around 200,000 civilians, mostly indigenous peoples, were brutally murdered or disappeared during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996).

On 6 December 1982, members of the Guatemalan army’s elite Kaibil force entered Dos Erres, in the northern Petén department, and killed more than 200 men, women and children.

In 2011 the Guatemalan state formally apologised for the massacre and since then five low ranking former members of the army have been convicted for their criminal responsibility.

Sosa Orantes was deported from Canada to the USA in 2012 to face immigration violations. At the time the Guatemalan authorities requested his extradition to face charges related to the Dos Erres massacre.

Some of those suspected of criminal responsibility for human rights violations in Guatemala have fled to Europe and the USA. All states are permitted to exercise universal jurisdiction with regard to crimes under international law.