Guatemala: Conviction of ex-police chief finally brings justice for 1980 Spanish embassy attack

The families of 37 people burned to death in an attack on the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980 finally have some relief as justice has caught up to a former high-ranking police officer for his role in the crimes, Amnesty International said today. 

On Monday evening a civilian court in Guatemala City found Pedro García Arredondo, former chief detective of the now-defunct National Police (Policía Nacional), guilty of orchestrating a fire in the city’s Spanish embassy that left only two survivors. After a four-month trial, he has been sentenced to 90 years in prison for murder, attempted murder and crimes against humanity. 

“It has taken three and a half decades, but justice has finally caught up with Pedro García Arredondo for the Spanish embassy attack. But these killings are just one example of the many committed by the Guatemalan authorities during the country’s protracted civil war,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. 

“This is a victory for the victims and shows again that Guatemala’s justice system is – when there is no political interference – fully capable of prosecuting the worst human rights violations from the country’s dark past.”

In a separate trial in 2012, Pedro García Arredondo was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison for the 1981 disappearance and torture of a university student. 

Despite these convictions, endemic impunity remains a serious problem for grave human rights violations committed in Guatemala’s past. The ongoing trial of former military ruler Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt for his alleged role in mass killings in an Ixil Indigenous community has been mired in delays and stalling tactics. 

“We hope that other cases of serious human rights violations currently in Guatemala’s justice system, including that of Ríos Montt, are resolved in a timely manner that provides justice, truth and reparation to the many thousands of other victims and survivors of the conflict’s abuses,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.