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Guatemala high court refuses to lift lawmaker's immunity for alleged human rights violations

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Guatemala on Thursday rejected a request to strip a member of congress of his immunity from prosecution for allegedly overseeing grave human rights violations during the country's civil war. Edgar Justino Ovalle is a top adviser to President Jimmy Morales and a member of Congress, which gives him immunity [teleSUR report, in Spanish] from prosecution. A spokesperson for the court stated that there was insufficient evidence [20 minutos report, in Spanish] that the lawmaker participated in the alleged acts. The spokesman also explained that the court decided to reject the request "in limine," without further investigation into the alleged acts. Edgar Ovalle was a military officer [ABC report] and was accused of leading military operations where 77 massacres [teleSUR report] took place. The request to lift Ovall's immunity came from Attorney General Thelma Aldana.

Earlier this month, Guatemalan prosecutors arrested [JURIST report] 17 former military and government officials on charges of committing massacres and other human rights abuses during the Guatemalan civil war. The vast majority of the 245,000 killings and disappearances that occurred during the conflict have been blamed on the government's security forces. 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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