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Spain court seeks extradition of Guatemalan massacre suspect

A Spanish court issued an international arrest warrant on Monday for the extradition of Jose Sosa Orantes, a former Guatemalan soldier being held in Canada for his involvement in a 1982 massacre during Guatemala's 36-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Arrested in Canada [AP report] in January for lying on his US citizen application about his ties to the Guatemalan military, Sosa now faces charges of crimes against humanity for the killing of more than 250 people in the village of Dos Erres. In December 1982, Sosa and other members of an elite military unit known as the "kaibiles'" allegedly ransacked Dos Erres looking for stolen weapons and, in search of them, killed men, women and children. The Spanish court issued the arrest warrant on Friday via the International Crime Police Organization (Interpol) [official website]. Sosa is the ninth suspect sought under a 1999 lawsuit brought by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu [DW backgrounder] for crimes and disappearances during the Guatemalan civil war. Because Sosa holds citizenship in both the the US and Canada, it is uncertain whether he will be extradited to the US or Spain. Guatemala is also vying for his arrest.

In spite of the lack of arrests made under the 1999 lawsuit, Guatemala has actively sought to punish those involved in crimes against humanity, corruption and disappearances. In October, two former National Police were sentenced to 40 years [JURIST report] in prison for the disappearance of student and union leader Fernando Garcia after he was shot and hospitalized in 1984. In August, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website, in Spanish] announced that it had issued arrest warrants for former government officials including those for former interior minister Carlos Vielmann, former police director Erwin Sperissen and former prison director Alejandro Giammettei in relation to the extrajudicial killing of several inmates [JURIST report]. In 2009, a retired Guatemalan colonel was sentenced [JURIST report] to 53 years in prison for his role in the disappearance of eight indigenous Guatemalans during the civil war.

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