The ICJ today wrote to the Government of Guatemala expressing deep concern about death threats made against public prosecutor Leopoldo Zeissig.
Mr. Zeissig, who won an unprecedented murder trial against members of Guatemala’s armed forces, was the second prosecutor in the trial who was forced to flee the country.
The ICJ urges the Government of Guatemala to immediately establish an independent investigation into the death threats and bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
The ICJ reminds the Government of Guatemala that according to United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, (Article 4), it has the duty to protect lawyers from “…intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference…” in the discharge of their functions. The Government must also ensure that,
“Prosecutors and their families shall be physically protected by the authorities when their personal safety is threatened as a result of the discharge of prosecutorial functions”. (Article 5)
According to independent ICJ information, on 8 June, Mr. Zeissig won substantial sentences in an historic murder trial against members of the Guatemalan military establishment for the death of Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera in April 1998. Bishop Gerardi, a human rights activist, was murdered two days after he released a report (“Guatemala: Nunca Mas”), bringing to light the involvement of the military in human rights violations during the Guatemalan civil war. The 30-year verdict against retired army Col. Disrael Lima Estrada and his son Cap. Byron Lima represented the first time in Guatemala that military officers have been prosecuted for human rights abuses. The defendants have appealed the charges.