Massacre Survivor Urges Canada to Try Alleged War Criminal

Massacre Survivor Urges Canada to Try Alleged War Criminal

By SONJA DECHIAN | Published: DECEMBER 2, 2011

A Guatemalan immigrant to Canada who witnessed soldiers murder his family along with almost everyone in his village has asked the Canadian government not to extradite an alleged war criminal, but rather to prosecute him in Canada.

Ramiro Cristales was five-years-old when Guatemalan soldiers stormed the village of Dos Erres in 1982. Villagers were systematically slaughtered, some with sledgehammers. Cristales was one of just four children to survive.

‘They took my father and my older brother to the school and my mother and younger brothers to the church,’ Cristales recalled. ‘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’

Jose Sosa is one of several former commanding officers of the military unit accused of carrying out the massacre. A citizen of both Canada and Guatemala, he is wanted in the US on immigration violations – not on charges relating to the massacre.

Activists are pressuring the Canadian government to prosecute Sosa for war crimes, but have not received a response from the federal justice minister.

A Guatemalan investigation into the massacre resulted in the issue of 17 warrants for former members of Sosa’s military unit, but the cases were slow to progress through the Guatemalan  justice system. The first convictions were recorded in August this year.

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