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Guatemala prosecutors arrest 17 accused of civil war abuses

[JURIST] Guatemalan prosecutors arrested 17 former military and government officials on Wednesday on charges of committing massacres and other human rights abuses during the Guatemalan civil war. Government security forces have been blamed [AP report] for the vast majority of the 245,000 killings and disappearances that occurred during the conflict. The prosecutors brought charges against officials suspected of involvement in the 1982 massacre at Plan de Sanchez, Baja Verapaz department, in which soldiers and militia members tortured, sexually abused and killed local residents. The prosecutors also brought charges against an ally of President-elect Jimmy Morales and moved to have the immunity of office lifted for Edgar Justino Ovalle, a member and co-founder of the party of Morales. The suspects were ordered to be held in a military base prison ahead of a court hearing expected Friday.

The ongoing trial of former dictator Rios Montt for his actions in the Guatemalan 1960-1996 civil war [Global Security backgrounder] continue to gather international attention. In August UN rights experts called [JURIST report] on Guatemala to stop delaying the dictator's genocide trial despite the fact that he suffers from dementia. In January of last year a Guatemalan court convicted a former police official for the killings of 37 people when the Spanish Embassy burned down during the country's civil conflict in 1980. He was sentenced to 90 years in prison for the homicides, and crimes against humanity for ordering officers to keep anyone from leaving the embassy as it burned. In May 2014 the Guatemalan Congress approved a resolution [JURIST report] denying any existence of genocide during the civil war.

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