US embassy cable - 03GUATEMALA724

MENCHU CASE ADVANCES IN SPAIN

Identifier: 03GUATEMALA724
Wikileaks: View 03GUATEMALA724 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
Created: 2003-03-19 20:25:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PHUM PREL KJUS SP GT
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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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