Jan 3, 2024
Following the decision of a judge in Guatemala City to authorize the immediate release of Virginia Laparra, former prosecutor of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) on Tuesday, 3 January, Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:
“Virginia Laparra should never have spent a day in jail. It’s great news that she can be reunited with her loved ones after nearly two years as a prisoner of conscience. Her release is a first step towards ending the terrible human rights violations she has faced in retaliation for her outstanding work as an anti-corruption prosecutor.”
“We lament, however, that Virginia Laparra remains convicted of a crime she did not commit and faces another unfounded trial, due to the regrettable use of criminalization against dozens of people who, like her, have led the fight against impunity. Amnesty International reiterates its call for the Guatemalan authorities to put an immediate end to the misuse of the criminal justice system to harass, intimidate and punish judges, prosecutors, human rights defenders and journalists”.
Virginia Laparra should never have spent a day in jail. It’s great news that she can be reunited with her loved ones after nearly two years as a prisoner of conscience. Her release is a first step towards ending the terrible human rights violations she has faced in retaliation for her outstanding work as an anti-corruption prosecutor.Ana Piquer, Amnesty International Americas Director
On 28 November 2022, Amnesty International named the former prosecutor as a prisoner of conscience, having found that her detention was solely due to her human rights work as head of FECI in Quetzaltenango, and requested her immediate and unconditional release. In May 2023, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the detention of the former anti-corruption prosecutor was arbitrary and requested her immediate release. At the same time, the international mobilization of thousands of human rights activists on the case has not ceased.
“Amnesty International underscores the importance of international pressure in cases such as those of Virginia Laparra. Our movement in the Americas and around the world has not rested in demanding the release of the former prosecutor,” said Ana Piquer.
The unfounded criminal prosecution against Virginia Laparra took place in a context of attacks against dozens of people for their role in the investigation of high-profile cases of large-scale corruption and human rights violations. In 2022, there were 3,754 attacks against human rights defenders and at least 73 judicial workers, journalists and activists had to go into exile, according to data from Guatemala’s Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit (UDEFEGUA).
Photo credit: Emmanuel Pixab via PBI