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Spain judge shifts procedural focus of Guatemala geonocide probe

[JURIST] Spanish National Court judge Santiago Pedraz said Wednesday he will switch the focus of his investigation into genocide, torture, and other crimes against humanity in Guatemala's 36-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; BBC timeline] towards obtaining witness testimony in light of recent setbacks. The decision came after a Guatemalan court ruled in December that former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and other high ranking military officers could not be extradited to Spain [JURIST report]. Pedraz had previously conducted his investigation using "letters rogatory," letters of legal request used when no governing treaty exists, but received no responses; he hopes that finding witnesses or victims will allow the investigation to go forward. A court source told AFP that Pedraz is frustrated by the Guatemalan decision, and that he has asked international media to help publicize his search for more victims or witnesses.

The Spanish National Court took jurisdiction [JURIST report] of the case in 2006 after the Spanish Constitutional Court held [ruling, in Spanish; JURIST report] in 2005 that Spanish courts can exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes committed during Guatemala's civil war. Guatemala's Prensa Libre reported [text, in Spanish] in December that 30 Guatemalan witnesses are scheduled to appear before Spain's National Court beginning in February. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.

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