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Cablegate: Menchu Case Advances in Spain

Published: Wed 19 Mar 2003 08:25 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS GUATEMALA 000724
SIPDIS
HARARE FOR BRUCE WHARTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KJUS SP GT
SUBJECT: MENCHU CASE ADVANCES IN SPAIN
1. Summary: With broad coverage in the Guatemalan press, the
Spanish Supreme Court reportedly accepted Spanish
jurisdiction for Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu's case
against six Guatemalan military leaders and two civilian
officials linked to torture and murder of Spanish citizens in
Guatemala in the 1980's. The Court reportedly rejected
jurisdiction for Menchu's allegation of genocide, however.
The Menchu Foundation here called the court decision a step
in the right direction, but vowed to appeal again. The
accused, including President of Congress Efrain Rios Montt,
reacted calmly to the court decision and seem unconcerned
about standing trial. End Summary.
BACKGROUND
----------
2. Rigoberta Menchu filed the case upon which the Supreme
Court decision was based in the Spanish courts in December
1999. She accused ex-military and police officials Benedicto
Lucas Garcia, Romero Lucas Garcia, Efrain Rios Montt, Angel
Anibal Guevara, Oscar Mejia Victores, German Chupina
Barahona, Pedro Garcia Arredondo, and Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz,
with genocide, torture, and terrorism, and the deaths of 200
thousand people between 1962 and 1996. In early 2002, says
the Menchu foundation, the Spanish National Court ruled it
would not hear the case, a decision that Menchu appealed. In
June 2002, the Spanish Supreme Court accepted the appeal,
which argued for universal jurisdiction for crimes against
humanity under Spanish law.
3. Menchu's case included the attack by Guatemalan security
forces on the Spanish Embassy on January 30, 1980, where
indigenous and guerrilla leaders, and 14 Spanish nationals
and diplomats, were killed. (Note: Menchu's father was among
those killed.) The case also includes the murders of four
Spanish priests between July 1980 and August 1981. These
events all occurred during the reign of President Romeo Lucas
Garcia.
4. The Spanish Supreme Court reportedly ruled in an eight to
seven decision on March 3, 2003, to return the case to a
lower court for consideration. However, the Supreme Court
stipulated that the Spanish domestic courts should only
concern themselves with the crimes committed against Spanish
nationals. The Menchu foundation issued a statement that
said they were "partially satisfied" the "door to justice was
left open" but they would appeal the decision to restrict the
case to Spanish subjects. Gustavo Meono, Director of the
Menchu Foundation, said that the Foundation would argue in
the appeal that "authors of genocide are common enemies of
all humanity."
ACCUSED TAKE NEWS IN STRIDE
---------------------------
5. President of Congress Rios Montt is the only one of the
accused still serving in a public position. Upon hearing of
the court decision, Rios Montt told the press he would
analyze the case with his lawyers, but that he did not "have
anything to do with genocide" and that he has disproved
repeated accusations of misdoing. Benedicto Lucas Garcia,
chief of staff of the Army under his brother's regime, also
publicly claimed innocence.
COMMENT
-------
6. Press coverage of the Spanish Supreme Court's decision
could negatively affect Rios Montt's ongoing campaign for the
Presidency, but much will depend upon the speed the Menchu
Foundation's appeals move through the Spanish courts.
Justice for Guatemalan war crimes has moved at a snail's
pace; Menchu and her colleagues are prepared for a long legal
battle.
HAMILTON
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