HomeNewsAnti-Corruption Judge Becomes Next Target of Guatemala Prosecutors

A Guatemalan judge recently heralded by the US State Department as a “woman of courage” says she is being attacked by her country’s Attorney General’s Office over her work on high-profile corruption cases.

In just under a week, the Attorney General’s Office has submitted two requests to lift the immunity of Judge Erika Lorena Aifán Dávila, alleging that she abused her authority by taking on cases without obtaining approval from the country’s Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia – CSJ), which assigns major cases to top-level judges, according to press statements released January 13 and 18. Canceling her immunity would leave Aifán vulnerable to arrest and prosecution.

Aifán denied the allegations, saying she is being “criminalized” for her work on major cases as a judge on Guatemala’s court of High Risk (Mayor Riesgo). These cases include a corruption probe implicating some of the country’s most notorious political operators, as well as a controversial investigation into a prominent journalist.

“I have not committed any crime,” Aifán told InSight Crime, adding that the moves by the Attorney General’s Office violate protection measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos – CIDH).

The regional commission, part of the United Nations, told “the Guatemalan State that the harassment against me should cease,” said Aifán, who has received threats in the past.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala's Former Top Anti-Graft Prosecutor Decries Arrest Warrant

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office told InSight Crime the office has “solid and conclusive” evidence to back up its allegations, adding that it has “at no time threatened [Aifán’s] judicial independence.”

The moves against Aifán drew backlash at home and abroad. In a statement, the Federation of Central America Judges for Democracy (Federación Centroamericana de Juezas y Jueces por la Democracia – FECAJUD), a regional association, expressed concerns about “spurious accusations” aimed at harassing judges, and pointed to a systematic attempt to derail corruption cases.

The US State Department described the recent actions by the Attorney General’s Office as “a blatant effort to obstruct investigations into corruption and an affront to the integrity of Guatemala’s highest courts.”

In 2021, the State Department awarded Aifán an International Women of Courage Award, recognizing her work on corruption and war crimes cases despite facing threats of violence. “She has become an icon in Guatemala in the fight against corruption, efforts to increase transparency, and actions to improve independence in the justice sector,” the State Department wrote in its announcement of the award.

InSight Crime Analysis

With many anti-corruption prosecutors now out of the picture, Aifán stands out as the first top-level judge targeted by forces within the Attorney General’s Office. The attack imperils the rule of law and further erodes withering anti-impunity efforts.

The most prominent attack came last year with the dismissal of top anti-impunity prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, who is exiled in the United States after a court issued a warrant for his arrest for alleged breach of duty and obstruction of justice. The Attorney General’s Office has also carried out internal reshuffles to remove certain prosecutors from significant corruption cases.

SEE ALSO: The Legacy of How Guatemala Destroyed its Own Anti-Corruption Crusade

The move will likely exacerbate tensions between Washington and Guatemala. The State Department has already sanctioned Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras, accusing her of obstructing investigations. Other top US officials have repeatedly expressed concern about Porras’ actions.

Aifán’s fate now lies with Guatemala’s Supreme Court, which will decide whether to uphold or reject the Attorney General’s Office request to lift her immunity. The Supreme Court has a checkered record in such decisions. In recent years, judges have shielded politicians accused of corruption at risk of losing immunity, including prominent legislators and former President Jimmy Morales.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

GUATEMALA / 4 MAY 2011

Guatemala's top drug lord, Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, alias "Juan Chamale," is accused of smuggling over 3,000 kilos of…

GUATEMALA / 30 AUG 2013

The new head of the UN anti-impunity investigations unit in Guatemala is likely to be a Colombian veteran of paramilitary…

GUATEMALA / 14 JUN 2013

A group of armed men murdered eight police and abducted one more in a key drug trafficking region in western…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…