Guatemala's ex-police chief arrested in Geneva

Erwin Sperisen formerly headed Guatemala's national police force Keystone

A former head of Guatemala’s police force has been arrested in Geneva on suspicion of involvement in extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses that occurred during his term in office from July 2004 to March 2007.

This content was published on August 31, 2012 - 19:55 and agencies

The Geneva prosecutor’s office said on Friday that Erwin Sperisen had been arrested on the basis of evidence submitted at the end of last year by the Guatemalan authorities, and more recent investigations.

Sperisen, who has joint Guatemalan and Swiss nationality, resigned from his post at the head of the national police in March 2007, amidst accusations of running a death squad. He left Guatemala the same year.

He since has been targeted by a number of Geneva-based human rights groups over his activities. The coalition of non-governmental organisations which has been trying to bring him to court welcomed his arrest, saying it demonstrated the "credibility of the accusations” made against him.

The NGOs issued a statement in which they said they hoped that a trial would soon be held, “so that the truth will finally be unveiled and the wall of impunity in Guatemala torn apart”.

Sperisen has always denied the accusations against him. Last year he told the Swiss News Agency that he was the victim of a “campaign of slander” and of “political manœuvres” linked to his fight against the drugs trade.

A warrant for his arrest was issued in Guatemala in August 2010, along with that of 18 other former officials, including the former interior minister, Carlos Vielmann.

As a dual national, Sperisen is not subject to extradition; instead, he will face criminal proceedings in Geneva, where he has been resident since 2007.

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