While Erwin Sperisen was Chief of the National Civil Police (PNC) in Guatemala, numerous crimes were committed by the security forces. In October 2005, after a number of inmates had escaped from Infiernito prison, Mr Sperisen and his colleagues implemented the “Plan Gavilán”, the aim of which was to track down and execute the escapees and then to cover up the crime. Three escapees were murdered. A year later, the intervention by Mr Sperisen and his officers at Pavón prison resulted in the deaths of seven prisoners. Once again, the crime scene was covered up. These executions caused a scandal that forced Mr Sperisen to resign on March 20, 2007. He then fled Guatemala and, thanks to his dual Guatemalan and Swiss nationality, went to live in Geneva.
Shortly afterwards, CGAS, ACAT and Uniterre reported Erwin Sperisen before the competent Swiss authorities. In August 2012, after TRIAL had provided new evidence, an international arrest warrant was issued and Erwin Sperisen was arrested in Geneva. The mother of a Pavón victim, who was traced in Guatemala by the TRIAL team, then joined the proceedings.
In June 2014, Erwin Sperisen’s first instance trial was held before the Geneva Criminal Court, which sentenced him to life imprisonment for the extrajudicial execution of seven inmates during the Pavón operation.
In May 2015, Erwin Sperisen’s trial on appeal was held before the Criminal Chamber of the Geneva Court of Justice, which once again sentenced him to life imprisonment, this time for all the crimes with which he had been charged, that is to say, the extrajudicial execution of 10 detainees on two different occasions. The outcome of this case, of vital importance to the victims, was the first conviction of a Central-American national police chief for extrajudicial executions.
In July 2017, following the defense’s appeal, the Swiss Federal Court referred the case back to Genevan tribunals, without ruling on the guilt of the former Head of the Guatemalan police. Erwin Sperisen’s second trial on appeal will be held before the Criminal Chamber of the Geneva Court of Justice as of 16 April 2018.