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Spain judge begins investigation in Guatemala genocide case

[JURIST] Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz has begun his investigation into atrocities committed during Guatemala's 1978-86 armed conflict that included a 1980 military assault on the Spanish Embassy, killing 37 people. Pedraz traveled to Guatemala Saturday in response to a case filed by Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu [Nobel profile] in 1999 seeking the prosecution of people involved in abuses during the armed conflict. Pedraz plans to question several former military rulers, including former heads of state Efrain Rios Montt and Oscar Humberto Mejia [Wikipedia profiles], for their roles in suspected genocide, torture and illegal detention. Guatemalan officials, however, have indicated they may not allow Pedraz to proceed.

The Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) [official website] took jurisdiction [JURIST report] over the case earlier this year, after Spain's Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled [JURIST report] last year that Spanish courts can exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes committed during Guatemala's civil war [BBC timeline]. The Constitutional Court decided that universal jurisdiction outweighed national interests in cases of genocide. Reuters has more.

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