Detention of prosecutor in Guatemala

Who we wrote to

The president of the Republic of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales.

What’s the issue

Orlando López, a well-known Guatemalan prosecutor, was arrested and detained for an alleged fatal hit-and-run incident in July 2016.

His car allegedly hit something around 10.30pm while he was driving to Guatemala City through Zacapa with his security personnel.

Allegedly, Mr López had received serious threats against his life, which seems to have been the main reason why his security team advised him not to stop, considering the location and the time when the alleged incident took place.

We understand that Mr López reported the incident to his seniors at the prosecutor’s office.

The Foundation Against Terrorism appears to have reported this occurrence to the authorities and requested that criminal proceedings be brought against Mr López for homicide, resulting from the suspected death of an unarmed man on the same night close to the location where the alleged incident took place.

Mr López was the lead prosecutor in the genocide trial against Efrain Rios Montt and has prosecuted military commanders for acts of genocide, torture and forced disappearances committed during Guatemala’s civil war.

We’re aware that the Foundation Against Terrorism previously brought accusations against Mr López in 2014 and 2015.

In April 2015, a judge allegedly ordered a travel ban against Mr López pending criminal investigation for public statements made by him in Spain concerning the judgement in the Rios Montt trial. 

We’re concerned that these repeated accusations, added to his more recent detention, could be construed as an effort to prevent Mr López from carrying out his professional duties.

What we asked for

We asked the relevant Guatemalan authorities to ensure:

  • a prompt and impartial investigation into the charges brought against Mr López
  • his release from pre-trial detention without delay
  • that members of the legal profession and human rights defenders can carry out their professional duties without harassment, threats or intimidation

Timeline

April 2015 – a travel ban was ordered against Mr López

July 2016 – Mr López was arrested and detained for his alleged involvement in a fatal hit-and-run incident