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Interview with Almudena Bernabéu: “Atrocities should never be forgotten and go unpunished”

«Justice according to Almudena Bernabéu»: discover Almudena’s interview for the magazine “MUJERHOY” in the Spanish newspaper ABC issued on 22nd September 2018.

In this interview, Guernica Group founder, Almudena Bernabéu, «the iconic lawyer and representative in the struggle of universal justice in our country» speaks about the various legal cases that she worked on in Spain and in the United States and the cases our organization, The Guernica Group, has undertaken. She explains the principle of universal justice and provides an insight into her professional journey towards her dream of “bringing justice from Spain to the world”.

The idea of creating The Guernica Group forged around the efforts of “building bridges between the [legal efforts] in the United States and Latin America, where dictatorships were ending and transnational justice processes had begun”. According to Almudena, “cases such as Guatemala and the Jesuits were the result of a coordinated effort between national litigation and the international impact” that cases could generate. Her encounter with the Basque Jesuit Jon de Cortina, who survived the Guernica bombings in 1937, changed her life and “gave her the energy to continue forward and not to give up”. The name Guernica is an homage to Jon and embodies all the atrocities against which we are fighting: indiscriminate violence against civilians, impunity, war is synonymous of civil resistance and the resilience to keep fighting”.

According to Almudena, the principle of universal jurisdiction is a State power (for her, a duty) that permits “the extraterritorial application of criminal and civil law from a country, in order to fight against impunity of international crimes, condemned and recognized by everybody and which must be investigated and prosecuted”. In this regard, she highlights important decisions, among them, the decisive decision of the judge Eloy Velasco—from the Spanish National Court— in the case of A.H. against nine members of the Syrian security and intelligence forces, as it innovates and creates a precedent for the need to create a “true capacity to establish international cooperation [amongst countries] in criminal matters.”

However, she regrets the ignorance that exists regarding the impressive work that has been achieved in Spain concerning cases of universal jurisdiction. She advocates that future reforms on such a principle should be balanced and serve to reconcile, not separate: “human rights must be on the agenda of every ideology”. She also highlights how Spain has a unique opportunity ahead after the current Minister of Justice has made a priority to reform the Universal Justice provisions by making a decisive decision to create a commission of experts composed by people highly reputed in their commitment and defence of human rights.

To the critics, who argue that Spain should not solve issues of justice coming from other countries, Almudena responds that “it is not about the belief that Spain can handle it alone, as if we were “Quixotes”. We want to search for avenues for greater cooperation with French, German or Italian legal actors...It is about creating an international impact, in order to solve our own domestic issues”.

Almudena explains that whilst the principle of Universal Jurisdiction appeared into her life almost by accident, the foundations underneath such principle –overcoming formal and human barriers in order to materialize the duty to protect people— has been “tattooed in her soul”: “my vision has always been wide and global. I am passionate about building strategies that include victims and societies... I believe in transnational justice, in the vision of togetherness” and it has been in order to implement such a view, that she created The Guernica Group.

Source: magazine MUJERHOY/ 22 September 2018/ pages 28-31/ Texts and photos by Ofelia de Pablo and Javier Zurita

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