Summary: Appeal court upholds guilty verdict against former Guatemalan Police Chief for extrajudicial killings

Geneva, 12th May 2015: Former Guatemalan Police Chief Erwin Sperisen has been found guilty by the Geneva Court of Appeal of ten extrajudicial killings and sentenced to life imprisonment. Sperisen had originally been found guilty of seven murders in June 2014, but he and the Prosecutor appealed the original decision.

Sperisen was again convicted of the seven killings that occurred while his forces were regaining control of Pavon prison in Guatemala in 2006. The appeal judges also found him guilty of participating in the execution of three escapees from El Infiernito prison (for which he had been acquitted at his original trial). The Court found enough evidence that Mr Sperisen organised and supervised a death squad. Sperisen’s conviction follows those of several other individuals also sentenced for the same crimes to long prison terms in Guatemala.

SRT grantees TRIAL and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), who had filed the initial complaint that prompted the opening of a criminal investigation, welcomed the Court’s decision. Philip Grant, Director of TRIAL, said, “The sentence passed is proof that the justice system is able to prove the involvement of the State and its representatives in serious human rights violations, and bring them to justice. We hope that Erwin Sperisen’s conviction will set an example, particularly to the Spanish authorities, who must now prosecute his immediate superior, former minister Carlos Vielman, for the same acts.”

Gerald Staberock, Director of OMCT, said, “This decision sends a clear signal to the Guatemalan authorities, who must do everything in their power to guarantee victims access to impartial justice and to put an end to the endemic impunity that is enjoyed by torturers and the perpetrators of serious human rights violations.”

Full press release from TRIAL’s website:

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