On December 6, 1982, an elite Guatemalan military unit, known as Kaibiles, surrounded the village of Dos Erres and launched one of the most horrific massacres of civilians during the bloody Mayan genocide. The troops separated the men from the women and children and then systematically killed the villagers, slaughtering the children and raping many of the women and girls before killing them. Over 200 people, including women, children, and the elderly, were killed.
Obtaining accountability and overcoming impunity in this case, like in many others, has been challenging. The first efforts came from the Argentinian Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense), which conducted exhumations in Dos Erres in 1994 and 1995, allowing relatives of the killed to identify some of the bodies.
Initially, the Guatemalan government withheld from investigating and prosecuting the massacre basing its decision on the amnesty granted by the 1996 National Reconciliation Law. The case was eventually brought to the attention of the Inter-American Human Rights system. In 2008, the Commission referred the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), which returned a landmark judgment in 2009, holding that Guatemala had violated the rights to a fair trial and judicial protection under the American Convention on Human Rights by failing to fully investigate the massacre.
In 2010, the Guatemalan Supreme Court ordered a lower court to execute the IACtHR’s decision by enforcing long-outstanding arrest warrants and by re-opening the criminal proceedings. Guatemala issued warrants for the arrest of 17 ex-Kaibiles, many of which are still at large overseas. CJA and other human rights organizations are coordinating efforts to bring these suspects to justice.
As part of the ongoing Guatemala Genocide Case before the Spanish National Court, CJA obtained an arrest warrant and extradition request for one of the former Kaibiles members involved in the massacre: Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, a Guatemalan national who holds U.S. and Canadian citizenship. Sosa Orantes was arrested in Lethbridge, Canada pursuant to a warrant issued by the Central District of California, charging him with making false statements on his U.S. citizenship application. He is currently detained in Canada.