The president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, denounced a global persecution against human rights defenders, after rejecting the recent complaint against the former Guatemalan prosecutor Claudia Peace and Peace.
The executive secretary of the National Office for the Prevention of Torture denounced Paz y Paz last June 8 for issuing a general instruction to investigate serious cases of human rights violations perpetrated during the armed conflict, when he served as attorney general of Guatemala between 2010 and 2014.
“There is an anti-rights current in the midst of all this wave of anti-democracy, in many countries of the continent; Human rights defenders are subject to persecution, I don’t see it as completely local—from Guatemala—, I see it as located within that current,” said Núñez.
Paz y Paz is the director of the Central America and Mexico program at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), whose offices are in San José, Costa Rica. According to her accusers, she committed the alleged crimes of “abuse of authority, torture and usurpation of functions.”
“It is an ethical benchmark in the region”
However, Núñez de Escorcia assures that the former Guatemalan prosecutor has been an ethical reference for defenders in the region for years, and her commitment to the fight for human rights has been evidenced at different times, which has already earned her persecution and stigmatization in the past.
“Claudia was not pleasant for the military sectors, because she persecuted them so that they would not go unpunished,” added Núñez, who recalled that the former prosecutor was the one who brought former dictator Efraím Ríos Montt to trial, accused of genocide against the Ixil people.
Paz y Paz was part of the first group of Independent Experts, promoted in 2014 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the context of the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa.
He also participated in the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) that investigated the serious human rights violations in Nicaragua, concluding with a report that indicates the commission of crimes against humanity in the context of the protests that occurred in 2018 and repressed with violence by the State of Nicaragua.
In 2013, Paz y Paz was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. “In Guatemala they are persecuting a world figure, of whom they should be proud,” lamented Núñez.
The international reactions to the persecution have not been long in coming. The Government of Norway spoke this Tuesday, June 14. They rejected the “criminalization of justice operators” and urged the Guatemalan authorities to act in accordance with international human rights law.
CEJIL points out that the accusation has no basis
In a press release dated June 10CEJIL also affirmed that the accusation against the former Guatemalan prosecutor reflects “an absolute disregard of international human rights law.”
“With the issuance of the instruction, Dr. Paz y Paz only implemented the obligations derived from the treaties to which Guatemala is a party and enforced her duty to abide by the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in exercise of conventionality control”, added CEJIL.
The regional human rights organization relates the case to systematic persecution, “which has intensified since 2019 to criminalize justice operators, who have fought to combat impunity and corruption in Guatemala.”
On the other hand, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Due Process Foundation also contradicted the complaint against the former official, a lawyer recognized for her work in defense of human rights.