Canada told to prosecute, not extradite alleged war criminal

November 29, 2011

The Canadian Press on November 28, 2011 released the following:

“CALGARY — Ramiro Osorio Cristales says he was only five when he witnessed Guatemalan soldiers butcher almost every man, woman and child in the village of Dos Erres during the country’s bloody civil war.

“They took my father and my older brother to the school and my mother and younger brothers to the church,” Cristales recalled Monday through tears. “They were crying. Most of the people was praying.

“The next morning they started massacring the men and young kids from the school. When they finished with the men they started with the women from the church.”

Thirty years later and Cristales is now living in Canada.

On the surface he seems fine, but he says the emotional scars are still there. And his anger at the man accused of commanding the military unit that surrounded Dos Erres in December 1982.

Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa, 53, who holds both Canadian and American citizenship, remains in custody in Calgary as he appeals his extradition back to the United States on immigration charges.

He is also wanted by Guatemalan authorities for allegedly participating in attacks on the village. A total of 251 men, women and children were killed during the massacre. The military unit believed the village was under rebel control and that its inhabitants were responsible for an ambush on soldiers and the theft of 20 rifles. No weapons were found.

Sosa denies the allegations.

Many of the villagers were killed with sledgehammers. The women and girls were raped and their bodies were thrown down the village well.

“At that time, I didn’t know what rape means,” Cristales said. “The little kids were screaming for their moms to help them because they were raping them and then after the rape they killed them.”

Cristales is joining Lawyers Without Borders and the Canadian Centre for International Justice in demanding that the Canadian government prosecute Sosa for war crimes here, instead of returning him to the United States.

“He’s only being charged in the United States for lying on his citizenship application. There are no charges for the underlying crimes that he allegedly committed in the Dos Erres massacre,” explained Matt Eisenbrandt, the legal co-ordinator for the Centre for International Justice.

“In Canada he could stand trial for crimes against humanity, for war crimes, for the actual human-rights abuses.”

Sosa was arrested earlier this year in Lethbridge, Alta., and is accused of lying to American immigration authorities when he applied for U.S. citizenship about whether he had committed a crime or been a member of a military organization.

The groups want the Canadian government to take a stand in the case, but so far have not received a response from the federal justice minister. Eisenbrandt said the Canadian government has an obligation to do something in this case.

“There are very strong laws in Canada that allow for the prosecution of crimes against humanity and war crimes even when they’re committed overseas,” he said.

“This is a case that has a very close connection to Canada. There is a Canadian citizen who is a survivor and Mr. Sosa is himself a Canadian citizen.”

A Calgary judge ruled in September that there was sufficient evidence to approve the extradition request.

During that extradition hearing Sosa’s lawyer, Alain Hepner, acknowledged the “atrocities” committed in Guatemala formed a backdrop for the hearing, but argued the key was to determine if Sosa committed perjury.

Hepner said there was “ambiguity” in the questions asked by U.S. Immigration officials and there is no proof Sosa committed any crimes.

“There is no trial. He hasn’t been convicted,” said Hepner. “He is in essence denying the crimes they say he committed.”

But the judge had harsh words for Sosa.

“The evidence from the massacre at Dos Erres clearly establishes that Sosa was present and involved and actively participated in the killings with a sledgehammer, a firearm and a grenade,” Judge Neil Wittmann said.

“It is hard for this court to comprehend these murderous acts of depraved cruelty.”

“I want him to stay here and he can pay for whatever he did in Guatemala,” said Cristales.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Canada here.


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