Tag

Crimes Against Humanity

Alleged Massacre Perpetrator Lives Freely in Canada: Canadian Government Called to Act

By | Press Releases

June 16, 2021, Quebec – Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC), in collaboration with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ), calls on the Canadian government to respect its obligation to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes, particularly in the case of Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, who is suspected of having participated in a massacre in Guatemala in 1982.

Mr. Sosa Orantes, a former second lieutenant in the Guatemalan army, has been living peacefully in Canada for several months. Forty years ago, the special unit to which he belonged beat, tortured and savagely murdered more than 200 people – including children – wiping out almost the entire civilian population of the Guatemalan village of Las Dos Erres.

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act gives the Canadian government the power to initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. Sosa Orantes. Universal jurisdiction can be used for the most serious crimes committed in another country, such as the Las Dos Erres massacre. The person suspected of the crime must be present in Canada.

One of the only two survivors of the Las Dos Erres massacre, Ramiro Osorio Cristales, now lives in Canada. Mr. Cristales fled his country a little more than twenty years ago, after having lived through hell at the hands of one of the soldiers responsible for the massacre. He has been seeking justice ever since.

“Knowing one of these soldiers can pass in front of my house brings me back to 1982, to the day when my village was plunged into darkness. Among all the people, only two lights haven’t been snuffed out. I’m one of them. Seeking justice is my duty. I’m the voice of the people who died and I’m asking the Canadian government to join me and Lawyers Without Borders Canada in this quest by prosecuting the case of Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes.” – Ramiro Osorio Cristales, survivor of the massacre of Las Dos Erres.

Since 2017, Mr. Sosa Orantes has been facing proceedings initiated by the Canadian government in Federal Court to revoke his Canadian citizenship. However, by limiting itself to this procedure, Canada is forgetting the most important thing, which is Mr. Sosa Orantes’ alleged responsibility in the perpetration of the massacre of Las Dos Erres, risking that justice will never be served.

“The case of Mr. Sosa Orantes is an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate its commitment to fighting impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to demonstrate its solidarity with the victims of these crimes and their families. Canada has the tools and resources to assert its leadership and take concrete action for justice and human rights at the international level. By not seizing the opportunity to prosecute war criminals, Canada is allowing them to live a peaceful new life without having to answer for their actions. This should no longer be an option.” – Pascal Paradis, LWBC Executive Director.

Canada’s War Crimes Program: A Mirage in the Fight against Impunity

Even though Canada has the power to fight impunity, it has not demonstrated a real willingness to act. By continuing to rely solely on citizenship and immigration procedures, Canada is not fulfilling its obligations under international law to fight impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Canada has the legal and financial means, and the relevant evidence, to prosecute Mr. Sosa Orantes here. Unfortunately, as in several hundred other cases since 1998, Canada is taking the easy way out and is ignoring its international responsibilities. Under the current system for fighting against impunity for international crimes, States bear the responsibility of trying war criminals. If he is not prosecuted here for his participation in this massacre, justice will not be served anywhere, to the detriment of the fundamental rights of victims and the rule of law.”-  Fannie Lafontaine, CPIJ Executive Director

Although Canada’s War Crimes Program is active, its budget has seen almost no increase since its launch in 1998. There is a lack of transparency in how the funds are used.. No annual activity report has been made public for the past six years. Even today, the criteria that guide the discretionary power to prosecute remain unclear.

In more than 20 years, only two criminal prosecutions have been conducted under the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act. Several other countries are doing much better.

Press conference: June 16, 10h30 EDT

About

Lawyers Without Borders Canada is a non-governmental international cooperation organization whose mission is to support the defence of the human rights of people in situations of vulnerability by strengthening access to justice and legal representation.

The Canadian Partnership for International Justice unites 24 leading Canadian academics and non-governmental actors from 12 partner organizations to work together to make the fight against impunity for most serious international crimes more effective and to increase victims’ access to remedies.

Contact

418-907-2607 poste 102

communications@asfcanada.ca

Virtual press conference on the case of the suspected Guatemalan war criminal Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orante

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QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC – On Wednesday, June 16, Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC), in collaboration with the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ), will call on the Canadian government to act on the case of suspected Guatemalan war criminal Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, who has been living in Canada for several months now.

Pascal Paradis, LWBC Executive Director, and Fannie Lafontaine, CPIJ Executive Director, will make opening remarks, which will be followed by a video of Ramiro Osorio Cristales, one of the two sole survivors of the Las Dos Erres massacre in which Mr. Sosa Orante was allegedly involved.

A bilingual (French and English) question and answer period will be held for the media at the end of the press conference. Simultaneous translation into English will be available for journalists as needed.

When: June 16, 10h30 EDT, on Zoom.

The press conference will be broadcast live on Facebook.

Information: communications@asfcanada.ca

 

In Conversation: Payam Akhavan

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This event was organized by Massey College in collaboration with the International Human Rights Program and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.

Professor Payam Akhavan gave a presentation on “Justice for Genocide: The World Court’s Historic Decision on Myanmar’s Persecuted Rohingya Minority”.

Prosecuting Evil – Law, Justice, Human Rights, Nuremberg Trials, and the Holocaust

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This Hot Docs for Continuing Professional Education accredited screening and discussion for lawyers and business professionals will explore how the Nazi philosophy of law emanating from racial ideology perverted Germany’s legal system, to discriminate against, ostracize, dehumanize, and eventually eliminate targeted classes of people. The program will feature the Hot Docs film Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz as a case study. It will be followed by a panel discussion featuring leading experts and scholars who will provide their view on lessons that can be drawn from history to address some of the challenges of our time such as the rise of populism, anti-Semitism, and racism in the Canadian society and around the world. The panel will also discuss the role of international in bringing perpetrators to justice and how the international community can promote human rights and prevent history to repeat itself.

Opening remarks by Dara Solomon, Director of UJA Federation’s Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre and the Executive Director of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre

Post-screening

Pre-recorded adresses by:

  • The Honourable Louise Arbour, C.C., G.O.Q.
  • The Honourable Irwin Cotler, PC, OC

Expert speakers:

  • Fannie Lafontaine, Professor at the Law Faculty of Laval University
  • Max Eisen, Holocaust survivor, author, public speaker and Holocaust educator

See full details on the UDocs Website: udocsfilm.com/hdcpe-prosecuting

Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz

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The conference “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz” was held in Toronto at Udocs and was organized by Hot Docs for Countinuing Professional Education in collaboration with Udocs.

Professor Fannie Lafontaine gave a presentation with Dara Solomon, Director, UJA Federation’s Ontario Jewish Archives, The Honourable Louise Arbour, The Honourable Irwin Cotler and Max Eisen, Holocaust Survivor, Author, Public Speaker and Holocaust Educator.

Warnings from the Rohingya with the Honourable Bob Rae and Payam Akhavan

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The Montreal Holocaust Museum hosted the event.

In December 2017, the U.N. stated that the world “cannot rule out the possibility that acts of genocide have been committed” against the Rohingya in Myanmar. What can be done about these ongoing human rights violations, and how can we help the Rohingya?

Hear Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, the Honourable Bob Rae in conversation with Payam Akhavan, Professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, as they discuss these important questions.