Guatemala Arrests Former Head of Police for the Forced Disappearance of Edgar Saenz Colito

Santa Rosa, Guatemala – Guatemalan National Civil Police arrested former Guatemalan National Police Chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo on July 24 for the 1981 forced disappearance of Edgar Saenz Colito and for his participation in the hundreds of forced disappearances and brutal killings by Guatemalan security forces in the 1980’s.  Garcia Arredondo has also been charged with participating in the 1980 Spanish Embassy burning in Guatemala, where more than 30 people were killed, including the father of Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, in addition to facing claims in Spain for terrorism, genocide and systematic torture.  

The arrest of Police Chief Garcia Arredondo by Guatemalan authorities is due, in part, to a transnational human rights litigation strategy.  In addition to facing human rights charges in Guatemala, Garcia Arredondo has also been indicted for human rights charges in Spain in the Guatemala Genocide Case originally filed by Rigoberta Menchú Tum.

In 2006, the CJA became lead counsel in the Guatemalan Genocide Case.  The case was expanded in 2006 to include claims involving the Guatemalan Genocide in which over 200,000 Mayans were killed by government forces.  CJA and Guatemalan human rights defenders have been working closely ever since to ensure the prosecution of high-ranking defendants such as former President, Efraín Ríos Montt and Police Chief Garcia Arredondo.

This is not the first time that Police Chief Arredondo has been arrested for his role in human rights abuses.  He was arrested in 2006 in connection with the Spanish Guatemalan Genocide case and held for thirteen months.  Although the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ultimately rejected his extradition to Spain, and Garcia Arredondo was eventually released, Guatemalan judges have relied on evidence produced in Spain to advance their investigation which ultimately led to Garcia Arredondo’s arrest over the weekend. 

In reaction to the arrest, Rigoberta Menchú Tum stated to Prensa Libre, “This capture represents a light against the impunity in which many crimes were committed by security forces during the eighties.  The dead included my father, Vicente Menchu ​​Perez, and innocent farmers who demanded respect for human rights.”

Almudena Bernabeu, International Attorney “It is fitting that after all these years, Garcia Arredondo has been arrested in Guatemala and will be forced to face human rights charges in his home country.  The victims in Guatemala have suffered for too long without the satisfaction of seeing those responsible to be held to account.  It has been a privilege for CJA to help support this prosecution through our work in the Guatemalan Genocide Case in Spain.  We look forward to cooperating further on the prosecution.” 

This past January, Special Forces Operative Jorge Sosa Orantes, another defendant in the Guatemalan Genocide Case, was arrested in Canada for his role in the Las Dos Erres massacre and is awaiting extradition to Spain to be tried for terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity and torture.  His request for bail was denied in March 2011.

The Spanish criminal charges against Garcia Arredondo were filed in connection with the larger Guatemala Genocide Case.  The case charges former head of state General Efraín Ríos Montt and other Guatemalan officials with terrorism, genocide and systematic torture.  CJA is lead counsel in the case and has introduced voluminous evidence implicating members of the Guatemala military in the genocide.