|Cynthia Dickins, Crown prosecutor speaks to media after a Calgary judge ordered Jorge Sosa, an accused Guatemalan war criminal to be extradited to the US to face immigration charges. Calgary. (BRENDAN MILLER/Special to QMI Agency)
CALGARY - Canadian justice watchdogs are disappointed to learn a suspected Guatemalan war criminal who’s been in custody in Calgary was extradited to the U.S.
Jorge Sosa was extradited Friday to face immigration charges.
Matt Eisenbrant, legal director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, said the “Canadian government appears to be interested in simply sending the problem somewhere else rather than responding to the voices of survivors and families of victims who wanted Sosa tried for crimes against humanity.
Critics say punting him back to the U.S. delays or potentially denies justice on the war crimes front and could see Sosa face a lesser sentence than he might have been handed had he been prosecuted in Canada under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
Eisenbrant says his group called for Sosa to be prosecuted in Canada or extradited to Guatemala, not the U.S.
“I think it’s a pretty clear sign the Canadian government wasn’t interested in full justice in this case,” he said.
Sosa came to Canada in late 2010 after fleeing U.S. authorities who were investigating allegations he was a war criminal who lied to officials to become a naturalized citizen.
By January 2011, RCMP had him in custody.
Last August, Alberta’s top court dismissed Sosa’s appeal of his extradition to the U.S., where he is accused of providing false information by not disclosing he was a member of the Guatemalan military and denying he had ever committed a crime for which he had not been arrested.
Sosa was allegedly a commanding officer of an elite Guatemalan army unit that massacred 222 villagers at Dos Erres on Dec. 7, 1982.
Some victims were raped before being slain, others tossed alive down a well.
He is wanted in Guatemala on charges for the massacre.
Jere Miles, Los Angeles Deputy Special Agent in Charge with the United States Department of Homeland Security, was “extremely pleased” to have Sosa back to face immigration charges and assured justice would be served in regard to the war crime allegations in South America.
“We can guarantee, we have a tested and proven methodology in dealing with human rights violators where they are ... (put) back in the hands of the appropriate authorities,” he said Saturday.
If courts prove he fraudulently obtained citizenship, Sosa will automatically be deported to Guatemalan officials.
If not, U.S. officials would likely work with Guatemalan officials who need to apply for him to be extradited.
Miles said knowing Sosa is one step closer to facing accusations in Guatemala “and to actually be able to bring justice to the family of victims and witnesses,” is satisfying.
“It would be nice for them to get past this,” he said.
Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Sosa is scheduled to appear in a California courtroom on Monday.
If convicted of both immigration charges, Sosa faces up to 15 years in prison.
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