Award Laureate 2023
AMSTERDAM, 19 April 2023 – Guatemalan lawyer Claudia González Orellana has received the prestigious Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2023. The Award was presented at a ceremony co-hosted by Lawyers for Lawyers and the Amsterdam Bar in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam on 11 May.
“By awarding Claudia González Orellana the Lawyers for Lawyers Award, the jury wants to highlight the important work of a lawyer who has bravely represented human rights defenders at high cost to her own personal life and safety. Despite the risk of arrest or physical harm to Claudia and her family, the submission to online harassment, threats, intimidation and the risk of persecution, Claudia bravely continues her work in order to protect human rights and the rule of law”.
Claudia González Orellana
After 36 years of internal warfare, Guatemala struggled for democracy and installed an International Commission against Impunity (CICIG). From 2011 to 2019, a period known globally for unprecedented accountability for corruption in Guatemala, Claudia González Orellana was a representative of the CICIG. CICIG successfully prosecuted high level government officials, Supreme Court and Congress members, and other members of organized crime. This work threatened the interests of a corrupt network, the so-called ‘Pacto de corruptos’ a group of economic, military and political elites. In September 2019 CICIG closed down and the former team of lawyers faced several attacks.
As a prosecutor with CICIG Claudia González Orellana pursued accountability for corruption and human rights abuses. She and her family now face extremely high risks of arrest or physical harm for the work she did as a CICIG prosecutor and now as a superb, persistent and public-facing defense attorney for those being targeted. She is now subject to online harassment and threatening rhetoric, verbal threats indicating she may be criminally prosecuted herself, and physical acts of intimidation outside her home. Despite these pressures, Ms González has remained in Guatemala and continues to handle dozens of defense cases, representing individuals who are being prosecuted for their involvement in cases relating to the fight against corruption. For example, she is the lead defense attorney for Virginia Laparra, who has been arbitrarily imprisoned in retaliation for her work as a prosecutor and who has been designated as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
As a result of defending the lawyers and prosecutors who previously defended the right to a life free of corruption and impunity, Claudia González is now facing violent treatment during hearings and through social media, and she is also being subjected to harassment and intimidation. She has faced multiple instances of judicial harassment, the last one of which was a fake case in which they falsely accused her of forging the signature of the nation’s lead anti-corruption prosecutor. Despite this situation, Claudia is currently using her more than 20 years of experience to defend nine lawyers, all of whom worked on high profile anti-corruption cases for several years: six are former Prosecutors of the General Prosecutor’s Office and three are former CICIG lawyers.
Lawyers for Lawyers Award
The Lawyers for Lawyers Award honours lawyers who have made significant contributions to the protection of the rule of law and human rights in challenging environments and is presented every two years. Through this biannual Award, Lawyers for Lawyers generates public recognition for their work. The prize is a special token as well as a donation of €10.000. Former laureates are: Alec Muchadehama from Zimbabwe (2011), Magamed Abubakarov from the Russian Federation (2013), Jorge Molano from Colombia (2015), Sirikan Charoensiri from Thailand (2017), Selçuk Kozağaçlı from Turkey (2019) and Maksim Znak & Liudmila Kazak both from Belarus (2021). The Award will be presented to Claudia González Orellana on 11 May in The Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. 2021 laureate Liudmila Kazak from Belarus joined us in Amsterdam to present the award to Claudia González Orellana.
Twenty-seven human rights lawyers from across the world were nominated for the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2023. The independent expert jury which consisted of Mr Egbert Myjer (chair), Mr Cees Flinterman, Ms Jenny Goldschmidt, and Ms Channa Samkalden selected Claudia González Orellana as laureate. The independent expert jury selected lawyer Manuchehr Kholiknazarov from Tajikistan and lawyer’s collective Bufete Jurídico de los Pueblos from Honduras as shortlisted candidates.