Allegationsof extrajudicial executions and other serious crimes against a Swiss national
Geneva’sjustice has to order an effective investigation into the case
Geneva, 18 April 2011
More thanthree years after a criminal complaint was lodged against a former chief of theGuatemalan National Police, a Swiss-Guatemalan double citizen living in Geneva, thereis still no progress in the investigations.
In January 2008, the Geneva’s union action community(CGAS), ACAT (Action by Christians Against Torture), and the union Uniterrefiled a criminal complaint against Mr. Erwin Sperisen, chief of the NationalCivil Police of Guatemala (PNC) from 2004 to 2007, in Geneva. Theaforementioned organisations urged the authorities to investigate into Mr. Sperisen’srole in the evacuation of the NuevaLinda Finca carried out by the PNC, and during which nine peasants and threepolicemen were killed.
Thereafter, TRIAL (Swiss association againstimpunity), and subsequently OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), joinedthe criminal complaint. Important complementary elements were added to theproceeding, documenting notably the use of extrajudicial executions, enforceddisappearances, torture, and sexual violence by the PNC during the mandate ofMr. Sperisen.
Only after over two years Geneva’s public prosecutor did hand the file over to theinvestigative judge in order to carry out an in-depth investigation.
At the same time, the Guatemalan authorities on theirturn issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Sperisen and 17 other persons in August2010, for their alleged participation in extrajudicial executions in two particularevents, one of which has already been the object of the criminal complaint in Geneva. Given his citizenship, Mr. Sperisen can not beextradited to Guatemala, and therefore the canton of Geneva is competent to set up a preliminary inquiry.
In November 2010, the authorities of Geneva announced that a letters rogatory was being addressedto Guatemala.
The organisations initiators of the complaint do nothave the possibility to be joint plaintiff, and therefore have not access tothe file. They can only note that, despite the seriousness of the crimes,almost 40 months have passed without any major advances in the investigation.The Guatemalan authorities, who declared their willingness to cooperate fullywith the Geneva’s authorities, have not been called on yet. The file in Guatemala remains forgotten.
If the crimes of which Mr. Sperisen is suspected reston sufficient evidence, he must be handed over to the justice and a trialshould be held in Geneva. Impunity is a scourge that wears down and destroysthe Guatemalan society. Geneva should not be part of this.
Philip Grant, director of TRIAL, +41 22 321 61 10
Eric Sottas, Secretary General, OMCT, +41 22 809 49 39