GUATEMALA: lawyer Claudia Gonzalez released conditionally after 81 days in prison
20 November 2023
The Observatory expresses its relief at the release of lawyer Claudia González, who has been in pre-trial detention since 28 August 2023, and who is now free under alternative measures.
Claudia González, former representative of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), spent years representing lawyers, former prosecutors and former judges prosecuted for fighting impunity for human rights violations and corruption. Despite the mobilisation of the Observatory and 29 organisations calling for her release, the lawyer Claudia González was held for more than two and a half months in solitary confinement.
Following an appeal against the detention order, the First Chamber of the Court of Appeal last week granted the lawyer conditional release, a measure that the judge in charge of the trial complied with on Thursday 16 November. The lawyer has been under unsupervised house arrest since 11pm on the same day and must appear every 15 days before the tenth multi-personal court of first instance for criminal, drug trafficking and environmental offences in the department of Guatemala, and is not allowed to leave the country without the court’s permission.
As she left prison, Claudia González expressed her determination to fight to prove her innocence in the trial in which she is accused of abuse of authority.
Far from being an isolated case, this is part of a clear and persistent pattern of persecution, harassment and criminalisation of women who, in the exercise of their profession, have taken the lead in the fight against corruption. This is the case of our colleagues Leydi Indira Santizo Rodas, Flor María Gálvez, Eva Siomara Sosa Pérez, Aliss Morán, Paola Escobar, Amy Girón, Claudia Paz y Paz and Samari Gomez, who have all been prosecuted and, for the most part, forced to leave the country out of fear of arrest. Equally alarming is the case of Virginia Laparra, former anti-corruption prosecutor for the Office of the Special Prosecutor against Impunity, who was sentenced on 16 December 2022 to 4 years in prison, and who has been in deplorable conditions of detention since 23 February 2022.
The Observatory maintains its firm condemnation of the persistent harassment of the Guatemalan legal profession engaged in the defence of human rights and the fight against impunity.
The Observatory demands the ceasing of all criminalisation and criminal proceedings against Claudia González and the rest of the Guatemalan legal profession, and the adoption of all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to due process, defence and access to justice.
The Observatory recalls that, in accordance with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16 and 17:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; 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.”
Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
 The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was created in 2006 by an agreement signed between the United Nations and the Guatemalan government. It is an independent body whose aim is to support the Public Prosecutor’s Office and other State institutions in investigating and dismantling illegal security forces and clandestine security apparatuses. CICIG was dissolved in 2019 by a unilateral decision of former president Jimmy Morales.