December 18, 2007 / 4:12 AM / 11 years ago

Guatemalan officials dodge genocide extraditions

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A Guatemalan ex-dictator and seven other former officials avoided extradition to Spain to face charges for genocide committed in the country’s 36-year civil war, according to a court ruling made public on Monday.

The Guatemalan constitutional court refused to acknowledge that a Spanish court had jurisdiction to put retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt and other government officials on trial after a Spanish judge issued arrest warrants for crimes against humanity last year.

Nobel peace-prize winner and Mayan rights activist Rigoberta Menchu, who filed the case nearly a decade ago, was devastated by the decision.

“This only shows that in Guatemala there is no justice,” said Menchu whose father and brother were killed by the army during the war. “While these people are not put on trial, we Guatemalans are going to have the shame of genocide hanging over us.”

A United Nations-backed truth report published after 1996 peace accords between the army and leftists guerrillas found that over 85 percent of the 200,000 killings during the war were carried out by Guatemalan security forces.

Rios Montt was president of Guatemala during some of the worst atrocities.

The decision means former police chief German Chupina, 85 and in a wheelchair, will be released from the medical facility where he had been detained and a former defense minister, Angel Anibal Guevara, will also be released from jail.

The other officials named in the case, including the silver-haired Rios Montt, who is still a powerful political figure in Guatemala and was recently elected to congress, had not been under arrest.

Reporting by Herbert Hernandez and Sandra Maler

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