Almudena Bernabeu

Co-founder of the Guernica Group, Co-head of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, Co-Director of G37 Despacho Internacional and Director of the Guernica Centre for International Justice.​

 

Almudena is a renowned international lawyer with a long career in the fields of Transitional Justice and International Criminal and Human Rights Law. During her years as Transitional Justice Director at the U.S.-based organization Center for Justice & Accountability, Ms. Bernabeu successfully litigated more than a dozen civil cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute and criminal cases in Europe under the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction to assist victims to achieve truth and accountability for international crimes. 

 

Among her multiple accomplishments, Almudena led the investigation and prosecution of the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, by members of the Salvadoran Military High Command, an attack that marked a turning point in El Salvador’s conflict. As a result of these investigations, a U.S. Court approved the extradition of Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to Spain to face trial, which is expected to start in 2020 in Madrid. Almudena is leading the private prosecution of this case, while working with Salvadoran civil society to foster and strength with it accountability initiatives in the country. 

 

Nevertheless, this is only one of the multiple cases through which Almudena’s work has contributed to justice processes in the Latin-American region. She started working in Colombia 10 years ago, when she filed a lawsuit against former paramilitary member Carlos Mario Jiménez alias “Macaco” —extradited to the United States— for the assassination of attorney Alma Rosa Jaramillo and popular leader Eduardo Estrada. Ms. Bernabeu was actively involved in the Justicia y Paz process and, at present, she is at the center of the truth and justice efforts designed in the 2016 Peace Accord, providing legal and technical guidance to both transitional institutions as well as afro-descendant, indigenous and peasant organizations from Colombia’s rural areas. As a result of this process, in June 2019, ethnic communities of Buenaventura and Northern Cauca filed four legal reports on crimes against humanity committed in their regions before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Truth Commission; a landmark event seeking to guarantee the effective participation of these victims before Colombian transitional mechanisms. 

 

In Chile, Almudena investigated and provided essential evidence to secure a civil judgment against Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, a former lieutenant in the Chilean Military responsible for the torture and murder of the popular singer Víctor Jara. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, Almudena led the investigation and prosecution of the Genocide committed against the Mayan people. The process before the Spanish National Court provided the victims the opportunity to tell their stories and present their “truth” about one of the darkest chapters in recent Guatemalan history. This investigation was instrumental in the conviction of the former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt for genocide. Almudena’s leadership in this important case was the subject of the documentary film entitled: “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator”.

 

While Almudena has developed most of her justice work in Latin America, it has also expanded to the Middle East, and more particularly, to Syria. On 1st February 2017, her team filed a criminal complaint before the Spanish National Court against nine high-ranking members of the Syrian Security Forces. This was the first criminal complaint ever filed against members of the Syrian military leaders for the commission of international crimes during the armed conflict. Guernica acted on behalf of Mrs. A.H., a victim of Spanish nationality, whose brother was arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured and executed in 2013 in a detention centre in Damascus.

 

These and other cases demonstrate Almudena’s contribution to the development of International Justice and the impact to strengthen and re-shape international criminal accountability as well as its impact on national processes of transitional justice. Almudena has been rewarded internationally for her support to justice and accountability mechanisms around the world. Among others, she has received the following prizes and recognitions:

  • The Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Prize. 

  • Katherine & George Alexander Law Prize;

  • Spanish National Council of Barristers SCEVOLA Award

  • Human Rights Hero Award from the Program for Torture Victims

  • Time Magazine 200 most influential people;

  • International Award Yo Dona Magazine "Best Professional Career 2012"

  • “Yo Dona” Magazine - Top 500 Most Influential Women in Spain 

  • El País - Top 13 Most Influential Leaders in the Spanish & Latin American World

  • El País - Top 40 Women for Labour Equality

  • International Price of the Spanish Federation of Female Directors, Executives, Professionals And Businesswomen (Fedepe)

  • Recipient of a honoris causa Ph.D. from the University of Santa Clara, California in 2013.

 

Almudena holds an LLM degree in International Law from the University of Valencia, where she specialized in Public International Law; she is a member of the Madrid Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

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