Summary: Swiss court convicts former Guatemalan police chief of extrajudicial killings

6th June 2014: The Criminal Court in Geneva today sentenced former Guatemalan Chief of Police Erwin Sperisen to life in prison for seven extrajudicial executions carried out in 2006.
Seven years ago, a coalition of NGOs including SRT grantee TRIAL denounced Sperisen to the judicial authorities for atrocities committed between 2004 and 2007. The coalition lobbied Geneva’s prosecuting authorities for an investigation into Sperisen, a dual Swiss-Guatemalan national who lives in Geneva. TRIAL also provided evidence material and witness statements to the prosecuting authorities. On August 31st 2012 Sperisen was arrested on the orders of Geneva’s Attorney General.

During the preliminary hearings, Sperisen appeared 11 times before Geneva’s Attorney General. 14 witnesses travelled from France, Guatemala and Spain and four rogatory commissions (international legal assistance requests) were sent to Austria, Spain and Guatemala. The investigation convinced the Geneva Prosecutor of Sperisen’s criminal responsibility. In January 2014, he decided to bring the accused before Geneva’s Criminal Court for the murder of 10 people in Guatemala, including the summary execution of seven detainees during a military operation at Pavón prison in September 2006, as well as that of three inmates who escaped from the Infiernito prison in 2005.

Following a three-week trial and two days of deliberation, Sperisen was convicted of the Pavon prison killings. He was acquitted of participation in the executions at El Infiernito prison, although the Court acknowledged the Guatemalan police’s involvement.

Philip Grant, the Director of TRIAL, said, “Today’s ruling shows that the ideal of justice pursued by so many, in Switzerland and in Guatemala, can be achieved. Despite the distance, despite the complexity of the case and despite intimidation, the determination of the many actors, here and there, has enabled justice to be served. The fight against impunity and for human dignity are the winners of today’s verdict.”

Press release from TRIAL’s website:

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