Guatemala's first female Attorney General, 2013 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Secretary for Multidimensional Security for the Organization of American States (OAS)
“We are sending a message: such acts of violence will not go unpunished”
– Claudia Paz y Paz, on criminal gangs that attack women
Claudia Paz y Paz grew up during the civil war, which inspired her to study law and help bring justice to her war-torn country. She earned a PhD in Human Rights and Criminal Law from the Salamanca University in Spain. After her studies, Paz y Paz started serving as a judge in Supango, Guatemala, and worked as a legal advisor for the Guatemalan Archbishop’s Office on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Paz y Paz quickly became a well-known supporter of women’s and indigenous groups’ rights. It was her tireless efforts for these marginalised groups that led to her appointment as Guatemala’s first female Attorney General.
She was in office for three years and became globally renowned for standing up against impunity and for achieving significant improvements in the Guatemalan judicial system, which had been notorious for its corruption. Paz y Paz was the first Guatemalan law enforcement official who prosecuted those who committed human rights violations during the military dictatorship of President Efrain Rios Montt, including those responsible for genocide and crimes committed against the Maya population. Paz y Paz and her team built the case against former General Rios Montt and successfully prosecuted the four Guatemalan soldiers who were found responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre in which 200 villagers were killed. She has also been credited for reducing violence in Guatemala by dismantling criminal networks, rather than by focusing on individual criminals.
Claudia Paz y Paz has gained worldwide recognition from many human rights groups and media sources, such as Forbes, the New York Times and Al Jazeera. In 2011, she was honoured by Hillary Clinton and the International Crisis Group. She is also the recipient of the CJA’s (Center of Justice and Accountability) 2013 Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award. In the same year, Paz y Paz was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2015, she received the Civil Courage Prize for her pursuit of justice and human rights.
After her tenure, Claudia Paz y Paz worked for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights where she was a part of the Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertas y Expertos Independientes (GIEI), the international panel of experts investigating the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero (Mexico). In 2017, she was appointed Secretary for Multidimensional Security for the Organization of American States (OAS). In this position, it is her mission to promote and coordinate cooperation among the OAS member states and the inter-American system to assess, prevent, confront, and respond effectively to threats to security.