Thursday, February 9, 2012

Alexander Prize Winner Announced

I am pleased to announce this year's winner of the Katharine & George Alexander Prize: Almudena Bernabeu of The Center for Justice and Accountability (right). Press release is here.
By way of background (see our prior posts here, here, and here), the Prize is given annually by Santa Clara University School of Law. The Prize is intended to bring recognition to lawyers who have used their legal knowledge and skills to help alleviate injustice and inequity. It is named after its two benefactors—George and Katharine Alexander—whose aim in establishing this Prize is to inspire young lawyers to heed the call of the public interest. Selection criteria include:
  • the innovative nature of the programs or other activities undertaken;
  • the courage and self-sacrifice required to undertake the work;
  • the sustainability of the programs the nominee has implemented; and
  • the number of people benefited.

"Almu" is an attorney with The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), a not-for-profit human rights law firm based in San Francisco. Almu leads CJA’s Latin America and Transitional Justice Programs. In this capacity, she assists with civil Alien Tort Statute litigation against human rights abusers found in the United States. With this program, she has contributed to a number of cases involving Latin America, including cases against human rights abusers from El Salvador, Colombia, and Peru. Almu also serves as the lead private prosecutor on two human rights cases before the Spanish National Courts. The first case was filed on behalf of survivors of the Guatemalan Genocide and includes Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum (right). She and her team’s exhausting and exhaustive work to find evidence in the Guatemalan genocide case is featured in the 2011 documentary Granito, How to Nail A Dictator. The other Spanish case was brought against senior Salvadoran officials for the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter in 1989. The victims of this horrific event are honored on my campus with small white crosses in front of our Mission Church (above left).

The picture at right depicts Almu in a village near Quetzaltenango with three witnesses who travelled to Spain to testify in the Guatemalan Genocide Case. This was the first time they had everleft their village. In their testimony, they described the way in which rape was used as an instrument of genocide and crimesagainst humanity--one of the first times gender violence has been featured in a universal jurisdiction case. (Photo credit: Ofelia de Pablo).

The picture at left depicts Almu in the country side of Nebaj, in the mountains of the Ixil, in Northern Quiche, Guatemala. She is with 83 year-old Tiburcio Utuy, a survivor of two massacres and torture by the Guatemalan Army. Almu recounts that he did not hesitate to come to Spain and testify, despite the risks and his age. (Photo credit: Javier Zurita).

Prior to joining CJA, Ms. Bernabeu worked with two non-governmental organizations affiliated with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on asylum and refugee cases focusing on clients from Latin America, North and Central Africa, and the Balkans. She also worked pro bono for Amnesty International—Spain and served as an investigator for the European Court for Human Rights, which is based in Strasbourg, France. Ms. Bernabeu was recently elected vice-president of the Spanish Association for Human Rights. She also serves as a board member at a U.S.-based Human Rights organization, the Equatorial Guinea Justice, and is a member of the advisory board of the Peruvian Institute of Forensic Anthropology (EPAF), which provides evidence on violations for human rights investigations and prosecutions. An adjunct professor at Salamanca University in Spain, Santo Tomas University in Bogotá, Colombia, and American University in Washington D.C., she is currently a PhD candidate in Public International Law at UNED University in Spain. Ms. Bernabeu is a graduate of University of Valencia School of Law.

The awards ceremony (which is free and open to the public) will be held on Wednesday, March 14,2012, on the campus of Santa Clara University. Specifically, we will gather in the St. Clare Room of the Harrington LearningCommons from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event—whichis free and open to the public—will include remarks by our recipient followedby a reception. If you would like toattend, please R.S.V.P

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