Former Guatemalan officials must face trial over extrajudicial executions

Former high-ranking Guatemalan officials accused of involvement in the extrajudicial executions of prisoners should face prosecution in fair trials, Amnesty International said after the arrest of former Interior Minister Carlos Vielman in Spain on Wednesday. Vielman, former National Director of Police Erwin Sperisen, who is currently resident in Switzerland, and other former officials are being investigated over the killings of prisoners held at two prisons in Guatemala in 2005 and 2006. “These former officials must be returned to Guatemala to face justice or should be brought to trial in their countries of residence, in line with international human rights norms,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Researcher on Central America at Amnesty International. Carlos Vielman, Erwin Sperisen and others are accused of involvement in extrajudicial executions of inmates, who escaped from El Infiernito prison in October 2005, as well as the extrajudicial executions of prisoners in the El Pavón prison in September 2006, and other crimes.   Seven inmates were killed during Operación Pavo Real (Operation Peacock), which was organised to retake control of El Pavón prison. The Interior Ministry and the police said at the time that they had been killed during confrontations with the prison authorities. However, a report of the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office in December 2006 concluded they had been shot and extrajudicially executed. “It is now time to for those states where these individuals are resident to prove their commitment to international human rights standards,” said Sebastian Elgueta. “Unless such crimes are punished, impunity will prevail in Guatemala,” said Sebastian Elgueta.