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Guatemala: The Observatory denounces the judicial harassment suffered by Claudia Paz y Paz.

June 22, 2022

Claudia Paz y Paz is a leading figure in human rights protection. She is a criminal law specialist, academic, judge and lawyer, she has worked for over 18 years to strengthen the judicial system in Guatemala. She has been a judge and national consultant to the United Nations Mission in Guatemala. In 1994, she founded the Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Criminal Studies, a human rights organisation promoting restorative justice and protecting the rights of marginalised and discriminated groups during criminal proceedings. Paz y Paz was the General Prosecutor and Head of the Public Ministry of Guatemala from December 2010 to May 2014. She prosecuted cases involving organised crime, corruption and human rights violations. In particular, she monitored the prosecution of the former President Efraín Ríos Montt, and the perpetrators of the Dos Erres massacre. She is currently the Director of the Central America and Mexico Programme of the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

On 8 June, Guatemala’s National Office for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment filed a complaint against Paz y Paz. She is accused of “abuse of authority, torture and usurpation of power” in connection with the investigation she conducted on serious human rights violations during the armed conflict in Guatemala when she was Attorney General.

Since 2019, the instrumentalisation of justice in Guatemala has intensified. Many defenders and former justice personnel are being prosecuted for fighting against impunity and corruption in Guatemala. This criminalisation of Claudia Paz y Paz is part of a systematic plan of persecution against justice actors in Guatemala. In this regard, the Observatory has already denounced the judicial harassment of our colleagues Claudia González, Leydi Indira Santizo Rodas and Flor María Gálvez.

The Observatory condemns this judicial harassment aimed at discrediting the work done by Claudia Paz y Paz for the improvement of justice in Guatemala.

The Observatory reminds the Guatemalan authorities that the independence of the legal profession is one of the main indicators of democratic health and consolidation of the rule of law. This is in line with the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990), which state that:

“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 16)