photo credit: RudaGT

Former anti-corruption prosecutor Virginia Laparra Rivas faced another hearing date today. The court was considering Laparra’s release from detention. Laparra, who formerly worked with the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI), has been arbitrarily detained since February 2022. For the sixth time, court magistrates dismissed her request for house arrest, meaning Laparra will remain in prison.

A Guatemala Trial Court requested Virginia Laparra’s arrest on February 23, 2022. Charges included “false testimony,” “abuse of authority,” and “usurpation of functions.”

The charges came in retaliation for an administrative complaint Laparra brought in 2018 against former judge, Lesther Castellanos. Laparra filed the suit after Castellanos disclosed confidential information about a FECI investigation Laparra was running into a Quetzaltenango municipal corruption ring.

On December 16, 2022, a Guatemala City court sentenced Laparra to four years in prison for the crime of “ongoing abuse of authority.” The Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la Nación, PGN) and accompanying plaintiffs had requested eight years in prison for Virginia Laparra, the maximum sentence. One of the plaintiff organizations, the Foundation Against Terrorism, is notorious for its harassment of judicial operators like Laparra, Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez, former public prosecutor Órlando López, and others.

Virginia Laparra has been held in arbitrary detention for 14 months. National and international organizations are demanding her immediate release. They also call for comprehensive reparations for the arbitrary detention “in conditions bordering on torture,” criminalization, and unfair proceedings she has faced. Due process guarantees are a universal right. The continued criminalization of Laparra and other justice operators speaks to a worsening context for human rights in Guatemala.