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November 28, 2022

Statement of ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross Re: Detention of Guatemalan lawyer Virginia Laparra

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2022 – The American Bar Association is concerned about the prolonged detention of Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor Virginia Laparra. As a prosecutor for the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (known by its Spanish acronym, FECI), she has fought against misconduct and corruption and now it appears is being prosecuted for that work along with many of her colleagues.

In Laparra’s case, the ABA is particularly concerned about recent reports of due process violations and prison conditions. Despite being charged with only a misdemeanor, she has been housed in solitary confinement at some of the country’s most notorious prisons. Legitimate independent assessments from groups such as Human Rights Watch have characterized her situation as arbitrary detention.

The independence of lawyers and the judiciary is a norm enshrined in the Guatemalan Constitution, an Inter-American Court of Human Rights precedent and United Nations principles and guidelines on the role of lawyers, prosecutors and the judiciary. In light of these principles, the ABA calls on the Public Ministry of Guatemala to review the claims against Laparra and promptly drop any charges lacking evidentiary support. The ABA also urges the state of Guatemala to cease the persecution of judges, prosecutors, journalists, human rights defenders and indigenous leaders who are being targeted for their anti-corruption work.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.