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Guatemala: Authorities must stop criminalizing prisoner of conscience Virginia Laparra

In light of the progress of the criminal proceedings against Virginia Laparra, former prosecutor of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), which could conclude with a conviction this week, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

“Virginia Laparra is a prisoner of conscience who has been unjustly deprived of her liberty for more than nine months. The criminal prosecution initiated against her is unfounded and solely due to her work as a prominent anti-corruption prosecutor. Virginia Laparra must regain her freedom immediately.”

The trial against her for the crime of continuous abuse of authority, for which she could face a sentence of up to nine years in prison, began on 28 November. Amnesty International has found multiple irregularities in the investigation and handling of this case, which is framed in a context of reprisals and criminalization against magistrates, judges, prosecutors, journalists and human rights defenders who have fought against impunity and corruption.

Virginia Laparra is a prisoner of conscience who has been unjustly deprived of her liberty for more than nine months.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director, Amnesty International

Virginia Laparra was arrested when she left her work on 23 February 2022 and has been held in preventive detention since then. Amnesty International found that the judicial authorities have violated her rights to liberty and due process. The court in charge of the case unjustifiably exceeded the deadline for taking her first statement and has denied her requests to continue her trial at liberty on arbitrary grounds.

Since 2019, the former prosecutor has had to defend herself simultaneously in two parallel processes initiated by the same plaintiff in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, despite the fact that they relate to the same events. The criminal proceeding has progressed to date, despite there being no evidence to support the accusation, nor clarity regarding the characterization and substantiation of the alleged unlawful conduct. The multiple violations found by Amnesty International also constitute arbitrary detention, according to the definition of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“It is unacceptable that the highest authorities lend themselves to the manipulation of the criminal justice system to harass and punish those who have contributed to significant advances in the fight against impunity in emblematic cases of corruption and human rights violations, thus dignifying Guatemala’s justice system in the eyes of its population,” added Erika Guevara-Rosas.