Guatemalan genocide case: Spain's court to probe killings during Civil War

Spain's Constitutional Court said Wednesday that its lower courts may probe the thousands of disappearances and killings during Guatemala's Civil War, even if the victims were not Spaniards.

The 36-page ruling of Spain's highest court said, "the principle of universal jurisdiction takes precedence over the existence or not of national interests".

Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu filed a petition at the National Court in 1999 urging it to investigate the crimes during 1978 and 1986 in Guatemala, the AP reports.

A year later, the tribunal rejected the case, saying the alleged crimes could be dealt with adequately in Guatemalan courts. Menchu then appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted her argument, but only for crimes committed to Spaniards.

Menchu has accused Efrain Rios Montt, a former dictator of Guatemala and current president of Guatemala's senate, and seven other Guatemalan officials of genocide, terrorism and human rights abuses for their suspected roles in some of the atrocities.

Menchu's original case focused on the 1981 arson of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City in which 37 people died, the killing of three Spanish priests by government forces in western Guatemala and the deaths of most of her own relatives. AM

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