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King & Spalding and the Vance Center Submit Petition on Behalf of Guatemala’s Leading Independent Judge Erika Aifan to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Guatemalan Judge Erika Aifán faces aggressive threats to her judicial independence and personal safety from powerful forces in Guatemala even within the judiciary, according to a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), filed today by her pro bono legal team from King & Spalding and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.

Judge Aifán is a trial judge presiding over Guatemala’s High Risk Court with responsibility for high-level corruption and organized crime cases. In March of this year, Judge Aifán, described as an “icon of the struggle against corruption in Guatemala,” received the International Women of Courage Award 2021 from the US. State Department. She is a member of the Guatemalan Association of Judges for Integrity, supported by the Vance Center.

The IACHR imposed precautionary measures on behalf of Judge Aifán in 2019. However, new threats recently have arisen in judicial proceedings before the Supreme Court of Guatemala seeking to lift her judicial immunity. This would allow her criminal prosecution for supposed excesses in her adjudication of cases brought by the Special Prosecutor Against Corruption (FECI). One month ago, the chief of FECI Juan Francisco Sandoval was removed by Prosecutor General María Consuelo Porras and forced to leave the country, for fear of his life.

One of the proceedings to lift Judge Aifán’s immunity was brought by a former Judge, Mynor Moto, who was accused by Sandoval of judicial misconduct and conspiring to obstruct justice. Judge Aifán ordered former Judge Moto’s arrest, and he is now a fugitive from justice.

This is only one of several recent acts of harassment against Judge Aifán, seemingly designed to impede her work against corruption and impunity. The petition to the IACHR alleges that the “violations of judicial Independence of judges like Judge Aifán cannot be separated from the broader attack on the rule of law … Vindicating the rights of Judge Aifán protects, not only an individual, but Guatemalan society.”

Among other requests, the petition asks the Inter-American Commission to decide that Guatemala must take “the measures necessary to respect and protect Judge Aifán’s judicial Independence.”

The Vance Center has engaged to support the rule of law and particularly judicial independence in Guatemala since 2013. The King & Spalding lawyers representing Judge Aifán before the IACHR, Douglass Cassel and Viren Mascarenhas, are recognized experts in international human rights law. The Vance Center lawyer representing her, Jaime Chávez Alor of Mexico, has significant experience in matters of judicial independence in Guatemala.

The petition is available here:

About the Vance Center
The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice of the New York City Bar Association advances global justice by engaging lawyers across borders to support civil society and an ethically active legal profession. The Vance Center is a unique collaboration of international lawyers catalyzing public interest innovation that brings together leading law firms and other partners worldwide to pioneer international justice initiatives and provide pro bono legal representation to social justice NGOs.

About the New York City Bar Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 25,000 members, is to equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.