GENEVA – A former director of Guatemala's national police force who now has Swiss citizenship has been arrested on charges of involvement in extrajudicial killings during the past decade in the Central American country, Swiss police said Friday.
The arrest of 42-year-old Erwin Sperisen on Friday was based on evidence submitted in late 2011 by Guatemalan authorities and a more recent investigation, the prosecutor's office in Geneva said.
It is based on "major suspicions" about Sperisen's involvement in various killings as head of national police in Guatemala from July 2004 to March 2007, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. Because of Sperisen's Swiss nationality, the prosecutor's office said, he is not subject to extradition and will face criminal proceedings in Geneva.
Several Geneva-based human rights advocacy groups filed two criminal complaints against Sperisen, in 2008 and 2009, urging further investigation.
TRIAL, a Geneva-based group, said in a statement Friday that it welcomed the arrest and hopes Sperisen will face trial on charges over his alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings and other abuses including the killing of nine farmers. The group said that as police chief he also is accused of involvement in enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence.
According to the group, a warrant for his arrest that was issued in Guatemala in August 2010 helped lead to the formation of a commission by Geneva authorities in April 2011 that eased the transmission of files with evidence against Sperisen.