Fighting Impunity in National Courts: Human Rights & Transitional Justice in Latin America

Knight Library Browsing Room, University of Oregon

This talk addresses critical issues in the efforts to bring to court human rights violators in Latin America. It discusses two types of national courts litigation: first, when litigation is available in the country where the crime occurred; and second and most commonly, when litigation takes place in third country national courts (also known as universal jurisdiction). An analysis of the Alien Tort Statute in US courts and the impact of these cases in the transitional justice efforts in Latin America will be included, as well as a review of the practice and implementation of Universal Jurisdiction in Spain in relation to Latin America. Using cases from El Salvador and Guatemala, this lecture sheds light on the possibilities and challenges of using legal instruments in transnational efforts to bring justice and reparation to victims of human rights violations.

Dr. Bernabeu is an International and Human Rights Attorney for the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) since 2002, where she leads its Latin America program. She currently serves as the lead private prosecutor on two human rights cases before the Spanish National Court: one filed on behalf of survivors of the Guatemalan Genocide and the other brought against senior Salvadoran officials for the massacre of Jesuit priests in 1989. Dr. Bernabeu has published several articles on human rights litigation in national courts and its effectiveness in the struggle against impunity, as well as on reforming Spanish asylum and refugee law. Throughout the 1990s, she worked pro bono for Amnesty International-Spain and served as an investigator for the European Court for Human Rights. She was recently elected vice-president of the Spanish Association for Human Rights, serves as a board member at a US-based Human Rights organization called Equatorial Guinea Justice, and is a member of the advisory board of the Peruvian Institute of Forensic Anthropology, a forensic group providing evidence on human rights violations investigations and prosecutions.

This lecture is organized by the Latin American Studies Program and cosponsored by The Americas in a Globalized World Initiative, the Center for Latino/a & Latin American Studies, the School of Law, the Departments of Romance Languages, Political Science, and International Studies, and the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Oregon.