September 2nd, 2012 10:30 EST
EX Chief of Guatemala Police arrested in Geneva for Extrajudicial killings
Mr. Erwin Sperisen, a dual Swiss-Guatemalan national living in Geneva, was arrested on Friday, August 31, by the Genevan prosecuting authority. A criminal complaint had been lodged before Swiss authorities over four years ago for atrocities committed between 2004 and 2007, while Mr. Sperisen was the head of the National Civil Police of Guatemala (PNC). The coalition of NGOs working on the case accuses him of having ordered extrajudicial executions and wishes that a trial may be taking place soon.
Between 2008 and 2009, two criminal complaints were submitted by a coalition of NGOs, among which TRIAL (Swiss Association against impunity), the World Organization against Torture (OMCT), the "CommunautÃ© genevoise d`action syndicale", the "Action des ChrÃ©tiens pour l`abolition de la torture (ACAT)" and the trade association Uniterre, to the office of the prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva. The complaints concerned several grievous crimes allegedly committed by Erwin Sperisen as the head of the PNC. The coalition of NGOs demanded the competent authorities to shed light notably on the massacre of nine farmers during the evacuation of an occupied farm in 2004 and the practice of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence committed by members of the PNC.
In August 2010 an international arrest warrant was issued by Guatemala. Shortly afterwards, Amnesty International and TRIAL denounced the inertia of Geneva authorities. As a consequence, in April 2011, an international legal assistance request was sent by Genevan authorities to Guatemala. The file sent by the Guatemalan authorities a few months ago now seem to have convinced the Swiss prosecuting authorities of the validity of the charges against Erwin Sperisen. The Geneva Prosecutor`s office has just issued a press release announcing the arrest of Mr. Sperisen.
The coalition of NGOs welcomes the steps taken by the Swiss prosecuting authorities. In its opinion, "the arrest of Erwin Sperisen represents a major advance in the case. It shows the credibility of the charges brought against Mr. Sperisen by NGOs closely following the case for years".
It is now time for the investigation to effectively start. Mr. Sperisen will have the opportunity to explain his behaviour and witnesses might be heard. NGOs wish that a trial can rapidly take place so that the truth will finally be unveiled and that the wall of impunity in Guatemala torn apart.
In 2008, the "CommunautÃ© genevoise d`action syndicale", ACAT ,and the association Uniterre filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Sperisen with the Public Prosecutor of Geneva. Confronted with the passive attitude of the Genevan justice system, TRIAL and the OMCT decided to join the other organisations and filed another criminal complaint in 2009. Because of his nationality, Mr. Sperisen can not be extradited to Guatemala and this is the reason why the canton of Geneva is competent to investigate on the matter.
For further information
Special pages about the Sperisen case
Press release of the Geneva Prosecutor`s Office