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Guatemala: UN expert concerned about legal action against prominent lawyer

18 September 2023

GENEVA (18 September 2023) – A UN expert today expressed serious concern about the detention and trial of prominent lawyer Claudia González, which may amount to retaliation for her work as a human rights lawyer.

“Claudia González’s case appears to be the latest in a series of similar cases targeting judges, prosecutors, and lawyers who have worked on corruption or human rights cases in Guatemala,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Satterthwaite expressed grave concern about the pattern of criminal proceedings against judicial officials as a result of their work on cases of corruption or human rights violations in the country. She called on authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the protection of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other judicial officials.

Claudia González was arrested and charged with abuse of authority on 28 August 2023. The arrest followed a search of her home ordered by the Attorney General's Office as part of an investigation against her. At the request of the Attorney General’s Office, the case was placed under “reserve”. This means that the details of the case can only be known by the accused, her defence and her representatives. As a result, her first hearing, nine days after her arrest, was held behind closed doors.

The charges reportedly relate to González’s work at the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and her role in exposing a magistrate who attempted to put pressure on a judge in a case involving a relative. In April 2023, she received an award from Lawyers for Lawyers for “defending human rights defenders despite a high risk to her life and safety.”

“Claudia González has worked tirelessly for human rights in Guatemala,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“Criminal law is being abused to target justice officials, the very people who protect and guarantee human rights, strengthen the rule of law and fight impunity in the country,” the expert said.

She urged authorities to ensure that lawyers are not subject to attacks and reprisals and demanded the release of those who have been targeted for their legal work.

“Lawyers play a vital role in upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights. Their work is essential to public confidence in the administration of justice and to ensuring that everyone has access to justice,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur has been in contact with the Government of Guatemala regarding this issue.

ENDS

*The expert: Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. She was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers by the Human Rights Council in October 2022. Professor Satterthwaite is an international human rights scholar and practitioner with decades of experience in the field. She is a Professor of Clinical Law at New York University School of Law.

The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Guatemala

For further information and media requests, please contact: Melanie Santizo (+41 22 917 9963/ [email protected]) or write to [email protected]

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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