Ongoing updates on legal proceedings against Claudia Gonzalez Orellana: a closer look
3 april 2024

Ongoing updates on legal proceedings against Claudia Gonzalez Orellana: a closer look


Claudia González Orellana

Claudia González received the prestigious Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2023 for her work as a prominent human rights lawyer in Guatemala and her work as a former representative of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an international body set up as part of an agreement between the United Nations and the Guatemalan government. Ms. González worked in multiple anti-corruption cases and dedicated herself to the defense of lawyers who were former prosecutors of the Public Ministry and other human rights defenders who were being criminalized. However, in August 2023, Claudia was detained due to her work as a former representative of the CICIG.

A more detailed look into Ms. Gonzalez’s case

Ms. Gonzalez is accused of the crime of “Abuse of Authority”. Specifically, it is alleged that, in January 2017, whilst she served as a prosecutor for the CICIG, Ms. Gonzalez submitted an improper request to remove the judicial immunity of a Magistrate in the former Guatemalan Supreme Court. However, during that period, a judge presented evidence indicating attempts of the Magistrate to influence those proceedings unlawfully. Subsequently, in February 2017, the Guatemala Congress formally revoked judicial immunity, leading to an arrest.

In September 2021, this Magistrate filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor alleging that Ms. Gonzalez and other personnel had violated her rights. Subsequently,  on 24 August 2023, the Public Prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Ms. Gonzalez. On 28 August 2023, a search was carried out of Ms. Gonzalez’s home and she was arrested. The judge on her case, one who is on the U.S. State Department’s “Engel List” due to their participation in corruption, declared the proceedings against Ms. Gonzalez to be “confidential”. The judge asserted that communications from international human rights organizations to the Public Ministry expressing concern about Ms. Gonzalez’s case posed a risk to the proceedings and thus decided to close the proceedings to the media and the public. The case remains “confidential” with the added “justification” that the courtroom is too small to permit press members to enter. Ms. Gonzalez remained in pre-trial detention until 17 November 2023. 

Recent update

In a recent hearing on 18 March 2024, it was announced that the case against Ms. Gonzalez will move to the trial phase. As of now, a First Instance Judge has yet to be appointed for these proceedings. While a hearing for the “Presentation of Evidence” by the Public Ministry is scheduled for April 11, 2024, the start date for the trial remains undetermined.

Actions in support of Claudia

Lawyers for Lawyers has been diligently monitoring the case of Claudia. In September 2023, the organisation issued a Joint Statement calling for her release and urging the Guatemalan government to take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to due process, legal defence and access to justice. To further demonstrate support and solidarity, Lawyers for Lawyers included Ms. Gonzalez in the annual #greetingcard campaign. This initiative, in which handwritten greeting cards are collected and sent to the lawyers, aims to uplift the morale of lawyers who are facing threats or unjust imprisonment.

Lawyers for Lawyers will continue to follow this case closely.

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