Spanish prosecutors oppose Guatemalan charges urged by Nobel laureate
MADRID, Spain (Reuters) -- Spanish state prosecutors asked a High Court
on Thursday to drop his investigation into genocide charges against three former
Guatemalan dictators lodged by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.
The prosecutors said Spain had no jurisdiction to probe the cases, including
military assault on Spain's embassy in Guatemala in 1980 in which 39 Spaniards
Similar arguments by the prosecutors have failed to halt other attempts
to probe alleged atrocities committed abroad. The High Court, for example,
upheld a judge's right to try former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Madrid
although Pinochet eventually escaped prosecution.
The latest case began on Monday when a Spanish judge agreed to a request
Menchu, a Guatemalan indigenous leader, to investigate three former Guatemalan
dictators and five aides on allegations stemming from the Central American
country's civil war.
Menchu turned to the court in Madrid because of its record of pursuing
right cases. Judge Baltasar Garzon, who secured Pinochet's arrest in 1998, has
contended Spanish law allows prosecution of genocide no matter where it took
A fellow judge, Guillermo Ruiz Polanco, is handling the Guatemalan case.
Of the three men targeted in the case, human rights advocates say the 1982-1983
rule of former Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, 73, currently president of Congress, was
The other two men who could face charges are Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia
Victores (1983-1986) and Gen. Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia (1978-1982).
Days after Menchu took her case to Madrid in December, a Guatemalan lawyer
who has represented the military in the past filed a suit against her charging her
with treason. On Thursday he said he would seek her detention in Guatemala.
"I will present forceful arguments that she has committed treason against
fatherland, for which she should be detained," Julio Cintron told Guatemalan
Radio Sonora on Thursday.
Claudia Samayoa, an aide to Menchu, called Cintron a puppet of the military.
says he is acting on his own, but in his words you note the inclinations of
military, radical sectors," Samayoa said.
Judge Ruiz Polanco is investigating a host of charges including genocide
Maya Indians and leftist dissidents during a 36-year civil war that killed 200,000
people, mostly civilians. A 1996 peace pact formally ended hostilities.
But prosecutors said on Thursday that there was insufficient proof for
charges, that they interfered with Guatemala's peace process and fell outside
The embassy attack came close to meeting the threshold for Spanish jurisdiction,
but the 1961 Vienna Convention preserved that authority for Guatemala, the
prosecutors said. They noted some military personnel were tried and convicted
for the raid.
The case against the Guatemalans was modelled on the nearly successful
by Judge Garzon to secure Pinochet's extradition from Britain for trial for torture
during his regime.
Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile in early March after British authorities
decided he was mentally unfit to face trial.
Prosecutors seeking to block the charges against the former Guatemalan
dictators had also sought to block the Pinochet case but were repeatedly
overruled by the High Court.
The court upheld another bid to bring former Argentine generals to trial
human rights abuses committed during a 1976-1983 military dictatorship in the
face of further protests from prosecutors. That case has stalled because
Argentine authorities have refused to cooperate.