Guatemala: THELMA DE LAM, Lawyer

Thelma de Lam is the Special Prosecutor for Defenders of Human Rights in Guatemala. Ms. Lam was appointed to this position in May 2003. The Guatemalan state has given her unit the mandate to investigate crimes committed against human rights activists. LRWC is concerned about the safety of Ms. Lam, and her assistant Marines Martin ez, who have both been the subject of death threats and harassment for the last two weeks, as a result of their investigations.

On June 20th 2003 unknown men attempted to enter Thelma de Lam’s house in Guatemala City, claimed to be electricians and insisted to be let in, claiming there was a fault in the electrical system. However, no fault had been reported. The men were refused access after no fault was found.

On the same day three armed men entered the house of Marines Martinez. After being told Ms. Martinez was not home, the men told a servant to tell her “if you carry on with your investigations, you’re going to get a surprise tonight.’

The person who last held the title of Special Prosecutor, Tatiana Morales Valdizon, also experienced threats and harassments.

On March 11 2004 Thelma de Lam was followed by two men on a white Honda motorcycle in Guatemala City, at around 5:30 pm. Her bodyguards stopped the two men, who identified themselves as being members of the Guatemalan Army and advised her to “leave things as they are” (“dejen las cosas como están”). Later the same day, at around 9pm, Thelma de Lam was followed in her car for over an hour by an olive green pick-up truck with dark windows and no licence plates.

Thelma de Lam is investigating the incidents known as “Black Thursday” and “Friday of Mourning”, which occurred on 24 and 25 July 2003 when the presidential campaign in Guatemala City was rocked by political violence. Journalist Héctor Ramirez was killed during the disturbances and former Head of State, General Rios Montt and former President Alfonso Portillo have been implicated in his death. General Rios Montt has been placed under house arrest and an international arrest warrant has been issued for former President Alfonso Portillo who fled the country in February 2004.

Amnesty International is concerned that Thelma de Lam is being threatened in order to stop her from continuing her investigations and that security for the Special Prosecutor’s Human Rights Defenders Office is inadequate.


Letter written March 15, 2004 by Heather Neun, LL.B., B.A., M.Phil.


In September, Thelma de Lam was transferred to the Appeals Unit in the Public Prosecutor’s Office where she is now the Prosecutor for Human Rights. She is reportedly no longer being followed or threatened; however, she is being discriminated against at work on a daily basis in order to hinder her investigation and has had her wages cuts in order to maker her life more difficult.