A woman wearing a black blazer and glasses sits with her hands clasped together and her elbows on the desk in front of her.

Guatemala: Trial of prisoner of conscience Virginia Laparra delayed again

Following the suspension of the hearing scheduled for 6 May, and the resulting further delay in the start of the criminal trial against former prosecutor Virginia Laparra Rivas, Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

“Virginia Laparra has been defending herself in this unfounded criminal case for six years despite continuous attacks. It is absolutely unacceptable that the authorities continue to allow further unjustified delays and violations of her human rights.”

Virginia Laparra, unjustly accused of revealing confidential information, appeared in court in Quetzaltenango on Monday for the opening of her trial. However, the lawyer for one of the adhesive plaintiffs (private prosecutors) failed to appear. The judge rescheduled the hearing for Monday 27 May.

Irregularities, rights violations in criminal cases against Virginia Laparra

Amnesty International has condemned the judicial harassment suffered by the former prosecutor and documented numerous irregularities and violations of her human rights in the two criminal cases against her. The two cases are the result of two complaints filed by the same Quetzaltenango judge, who is accused of alleged corruption, after Virginia Laparra brought charges against him in the exercise of her duties. The first trial, which did not respect due process guarantees, ended in December 2022 with a four-year prison sentence for the former prosecutor.

This second case started in 2018. According to information received, the trial was due to start in April 2023. But it was delayed by multiple actions brought by the adhesive plaintiffs in the proceedings and admitted by the authorities in charge of the case.

Amnesty International believes that Virginia Laparra is being persecuted solely for her anti-corruption work. For this reason she was declared a prisoner of conscience in November 2022. The organization also claims that the former prosecutor, who was released from prison on 3 January 2024, is still a prisoner of conscience as she continues to be held under house arrest as an alternative to prison, having served about half of the four-year prison term to which she was unjustly sentenced in December 2022.

“The Guatemalan authorities have a duty to take into account the context of criminalization against the former prosecutor and take corrective measures against any attempt at malicious or delaying tactics by the parties. The Guatemalan authorities must urgently act in good faith and ensure all due process guarantees for Virginia Laparra. The unfounded criminal prosecution against her must cease immediately,” Ana Piquer added.

Header photo credit: Verdad y Justicia Guatemala