Guatemala: Joint statement in support of lawyer Claudia González

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© Edwin Bercián/EU via Emisoras Unidas

The undersigned organisations, including FIDH and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, condemn the arrest of human rights lawyer Claudia González Orellana, which took place in Guatemala City on 28 August 2023.

September 5, 2023. - The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (OIAD) [1] , Lawyers for Lawyers [2] , and the undersigned organisations condemn the arrest of human rights lawyer Claudia González Orellana, which took place in Guatemala City on 28 August 2023.

Claudia González Orellana was a representative for the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), committed to the fight against impunity of serious human rights violations and corruption. Because of this work, she has been subjected to harassment through social networks and verbal threats that indicate that she herself may be criminally prosecuted. She has faced multiple cases of judicial harassment, the latest of which was a bogus case in which she was accused of forging the signature of the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor.

Despite this situation, Claudia is currently using her more than 20 years of experience to continue working in the defence of human rights in Guatemala, as she is legal counsel for nine former colleagues from the CICIG and other former prosecutors. In recognition of her work and dedication, she was awarded the Lawyers for Lawyers award 2023.

On the morning of 28 August 2023, lawyer Claudia González was arrested, charged with the crime of abuse of authority. The arrest took place following a search of her home ordered by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as part of the alleged investigation proceedings against her. However, prior to her arrest, Claudia repeatedly went to the prosecutor’s office to request information about possible proceedings against her, without result. It came to our attention that other former CICIG and FECI (Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity in Guatemala) workers faced arrest warrants on this date as well. Claudia’s arrest warrant was signed by Jimi Rodolfo Bremer Ramírez [3] , tenth pluripersonal judge of first criminal instance. Reportedly, Claudia is currently held in solitary confinement during her pre-trial detention. On 6 September the first hearing in her case will take place despite the requirement under Guatemalan law that it takes place within 24 hours of the detention.

According to Claudia González, this arrest is motivated solely by her work as defence lawyer of Juan Francisco Sandoval, Virginia Laparra, Paola Escobar, Carlos Vides, Eva Siomara Sosa and others, all of them former members of CICIG or FECI (. The criminal process against Claudia represents a clear attempt of retaliation for her work at CICIG and her attempt to seek justice for those being unfairly criminalized in her profession. Claudia’s arrest leaves her clients unprotected in their legal processes.

Lawyers play a vital role in upholding the rule of law and the protection of human rights and their work is indispensable for public confidence in the administration of justice and to ensure access to justice for all.

The undersigned organizations would like to draw your attention to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, particularly Article 16, which states:

 16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (…) and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

The undersigned organisations express their concern about the lack of judicial independence in the actions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the magistrate in charge of the case against lawyer Claudia Gonzalez. In particular, we are concerned about the lack of grounds to carry out the search of her home and for her detention.

The undersigned organisations are concerned about the high risks faced by human rights lawyers in Guatemala. This deprivation of liberty, added to the previous threats and harassment derived from their work, results in a staggered sequence of incidents, generating a violation of their physical, emotional and psychological integrity.

For the above reasons, the undersigned organisations urge the Guatemalan authorities to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release lawyer Claudia González.

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to due process, legal defence and access to justice in the case of Claudia González.

3. Guarantee that all lawyers in Guatemala are able to carry out their legitimate professional activities without fear of reprisals and free of all undue restrictions including judicial harassment arbitrary arrest, deprivation of liberty or other arbitrary sanctions.

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  • Co-signatories

    Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
    International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
    The Law Society of England and Wales
    Council of Bars and Law
    Societies of Europe (CCBE)
    Instituto para el Estado de Derecho de la Unión Internacional de Abogados (UIA-IROL)
    Alianza de Mujeres y Mujeres Indígenas por el Acceso a la Justicia
    Asociación de Abogados y Notarios Mayas de Guatemala -NIM AJPU-
    Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad
    American Friends Service Committee – LAC
    Sector Interreligioso Centinelas por la Dignificación del Estado
    Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
    Frontline Defenders
    Red de Justicia en Movimiento para Migrantes
    Iniciativas de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (ICID)
    Latinas en poder
    Organización mundial contra la tortura (OMCT), en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    Instituto de Enseñanza para el Desarrollo Sostenible (IEPADES)
    Federación Internacional por los Derechos Humanos (FIDH), en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    Sembramos futuro
    Festivales solidarios
    Feministas Autoconvocadas de Barcelona
    Solidaridad con Guatemala de Austria
    Ecologistas en Acción
    Lumaltik Herriak
    Sector Mujeres
    Iniciativa Mesoamericana de mujeres defensoras de derechos humanos (IM-Defensoras)

  • Member organisations - Guatemala
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