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US Representatives Urge DoJ to Enforce Warrants

Members of U.S. Congress Urge Department of Justice to Enforce International Arrest Warrants
Former Guatemalan Military Leaders Accused of Genocide and Terrorism

For Immediate Release
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala


August 1, 2006 - Members of the U.S. House of Representatives today called on the Department of Justice to give its “full support and cooperation with the ongoing case against former Guatemalan leaders being investigated through the legal system of the Kingdom of Spain.”

In a letter to Molly Warlow, Director of the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice, they wrote that given "the very serious nature of the crimes, we believe the United States should fully cooperate with the investigation and immediately comply with the arrest warrant" issued last month against eight former Guatemalan military officials.

The letter, initiated by Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, was sent weeks after a Spanish judge issued an arrest warrant against military officials who were in power in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The judge issued the warrants after an investigative commission sent to Guatemala was blocked by legal appeals from the accused.

The warrants included orders to seize all financial assets held by the accused, both in Spain and internationally. The Representatives wrote that “Given the likelihood that the accused may own financial assets in the United States, the Department of Justice should also actively investigate the potential whereabouts of any such assets and ensure their immediate seizure.”

“We applaud the Representatives’ commitment to human rights and accountability, and hope that the Department of Justice will show a similar dedication to the rule of law by fully enforcing the warrants,” said Andrew de Sousa of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

The warrants stem from a legal case originally brought before the Spanish courts by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum in 1991. The accused Guatemalan military officials are former Presidents Efraín Rios Montt, Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores, and Romeo Lucas García, former Minister of Defense Ángel Aníbal Guevara Rodriguez, former Minister of the Interior Donaldo Álvarez Ruiz, Director of the National Police German Chupina Barahona, Head of the Sixth Command of the National Police Pedro García Arredondo, and Army Chief of Staff Benedicto Lucas García.

The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) is a grassroots human rights organization with members across the United States. For more than 25 years, NISGUA has worked for democracy and human rights in Guatemala and the U.S.

The letter, signed by 20 Representatives, is attached below. For more information on the arrest warrants see: http://acoguate.livejournal.com/


###

The Honorable Molly Warlow
Director, Office of International Affairs
Department of Justice
Criminal Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Director Warlow,

We are writing to urge your full support and cooperation with the ongoing case against former Guatemalan leaders being investigated through the legal system of the Kingdom of Spain.

On July 7, 2006, Judge Santiago Pedraz of the Spanish National Court issued an international arrest warrant for eight former Guatemalan officials: Efraín Rios Montt Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores, Ángel Aníbal Guevara Rodriguez, Donaldo Álvarez Ruiz, German Chupina Barahona, Pedro García Arredondo, Benedicto Lucas García, and Romeo Lucas García. The warrants were issued for very grave crimes, namely terrorism, genocide and systematic torture, committed against the Guatemalan people in the period of 1978-1984. The warrant included orders to freeze the financial assets of the accused, and was filed with Interpol for international dissemination.

The case has gone through a careful legal process, originally initiated in 1999 by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu. Last June 24, Judge Pedraz led an Investigative Commission to Guatemala to obtain testimony from the accused and gather further evidence. However, his visit was sabotaged by several last-minute appeals filed on behalf of the accused. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court prevented the Commission from collecting testimony. Upon the Commission’s return to Spain, Judge Pedraz issued the arrest warrants, citing the “obstructionist attitude of the defendants and because there is sufficient evidence that the crimes of genocide, terrorism, torture, murder and illegal detention were committed by the defendants.”

During the period being investigated by the Spanish National Court, the accused officials were in command of security forces that conducted several hundred massacres and killed over 200,000 civilians. In light of the very serious nature of the crimes, we believe the United States should fully cooperate with the investigation and immediately comply with the arrest warrant. Given the likelihood that the accused may own financial assets in the United States, the Department of Justice should also actively investigate the potential whereabouts of any such assets and ensure their immediate seizure.

Finally, we request that the Department of Justice inform Congress of the Department’s efforts to ensure compliance with the warrant throughout the United States, including communication to U.S. financial institutions to immediately report any assets suspected of belonging to the accused individuals.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Rep. Mike Honda
Rep. Raúl Grijalva
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich
Rep. Barbara Lee
Rep. Dan Lipinski
Rep. Janice Schakowsky
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Zoe Lofgren
Rep. Robert Wexler
Rep. Fortney Stark
Rep. Joe Baca
Rep. Stephen Lynch
Rep. James McGovern
Rep. Lynn Woosley
Rep. Sherrod Brown
Rep. Peter DeFazio
Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick
Rep. Bobby Rush
Rep. Sam Farr

cc: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales


ENDS

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