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Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa, Accused Guatemala War Criminal, Loses Appeal

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JORGE VINICIO ORANTES SOSA
Human remains are seen in a mass grave during an exhumation in a military regiment in Coban, Guatemala, Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Forensic experts say they have unearthed the remains of 99 Guatemalan civil war victims from clandestine graves inside a military unit and are searching for more. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) | AP

CALGARY - A human rights group wants the Canadian government to take immediate steps to revoke the citizenship of an accused Guatemalan war criminal who lost his bid to have the Supreme Court of Canada review his extradition to the United States.

Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa was arrested while visiting family in Lethbridge, Alta., two years ago. The 54-year-old was ordered extradited to the United States to face immigration charges. He's accused of lying to immigration officials about his military past when he applied for U.S. citizenship and was deported to the United States last September.

Sosa, who held both Canadian and U.S. citizenship, is also wanted by Guatemalan authorities for the alleged massacre of civilians in the village of Dos Erres during that country's civil war. It's alleged that 251 men, women and children were killed. 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.

"Given the evidence that we've seen, Sosa is not someone who should be entitled to be a Canadian citizen. We would hope the Canadian government would take that step to revoke his citizenship," said Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director for the Canadian Centre for International Justice.

"I would certainly hope so because even if he gets the maximum sentence in the United States on fraud at some point, if he's not sent to Guatemala at the end of his sentence and he's still a Canadian citizen he would probably try to come back."

A request for an update on Sosa's Canadian citizenship status was not answered.

"I cannot comment on a particular case due to Canadian privacy legislation," said Paul Northcott, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada based in Ottawa.

Generally, he said Canadian citizenship can be revoked if a person falsely represented themselves, committed fraud, or concealed material circumstances when they applied for citizenship or permanent residence.

Sosa's extradition proceeding heard that he was a sub-lieutenant at the Kaibil School, which trained special commando units in Guatemala in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and was one of the commanders of a 60-man unit that surrounded Dos Erres in December 1982.

Many of the villagers were killed with sledgehammers. The women and girls were raped and their bodies thrown down the village well, the hearing heard. No stolen weapons were found.

Sosa has denied being in the village that day.

An Alberta judge disagreed.

"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,'' said Court of Queen's Justice Neil Wittmann in granting the extradition order.

"It is hard for this court to comprehend these murderous acts of depraved cruelty.''

A former member of the same unit, Pedro Pimentel Rios, was extradited from the United States to Guatemala and sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the killings.

The Centre for International Justice had launched a campaign to encourage the Canadian government to keep Sosa in Canada and try him for war crimes here.

"Canada may be rid of Jorge Sosa, but for the survivors of the Dos Erres massacre the search for justice goes on," said Eisenbrandt.

"The fact that Sosa was extradited away from Canada doesn't necessarily help the survivors who want him to be tried for crimes against humanity."

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