Bringing a message that optimism, strong professional role models, and a
"profound need to fix people's problems" can forge a meaningful career,
human-rights lawyer Almudena Bernabeu spoke to the 300 graduating
students from Santa Clara University School of Law.
The law school's commencement took place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 24,
in the University's Mission Gardens.
Bernabeu is the lead attorney with San Francisco-based Center for
Justice and Accountability's (CJA) Latin America and Transitional
Justice Programs. She is the lead private prosecutor on the high-profile
case, under way before the Spanish National Court, against the
Salvadoran officials alleged to be behind the massacre of six Jesuit
priests, as well as their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989. She also
represented survivors of the Guatemalan genocide (including Nobel
laureate Rigoberto Menchú Tum).
She said she got inspired in 2008 to use "universal jurisdiction" to
prosecute in Spain the alleged Salvadoran killers of the Jesuits, after
she worked alongside prosecutors of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who also
was indicted in Spain for alleged human rights violations. "Spanish
professionals had changed the landscape of international criminal law
with the Pinochet case, and I had been by their side, lerning, until my
opportunity arrived," she said.
She thanked Santa Clara University for helping shelter the only
witnesses to the 1989 crime, and for helping her locate them to help
prosecute the case. The witnesses, Jorge and Lucia Cerna, were in
attendance at Saturday's ceremony. "Santa Clara University makes of
justice, not only a key piece of the syllabus, but a way of academic and
personal life," Bernabeu said.
During the ceremony Saturday, University President Michael Engh, S.J.,
spoke to the graduates, challenging them with the questions "Who will
bring justice to the innocent? Who will serve people who would not
otherwise have legal counsel? Who will reinforce ethical decision-making
across all industries?"
The 2014 graduating class comprised 48 percent women and 52 percent men.
Forty-seven percent of the graduates identified as Caucasian, with 27
percent identifying as Asian; 12 percent Hispanic; 4 percent
multi-ethnic, and 2 percent African-American. Forty-six graduates
received certificates in various areas of high-tech law; another 24
received certificates in public-interest and social-justice law; and 21
specialized in international law.
Bernabeu received an honorary Doctor of Law degree at the event. She
studied at the University of Virginia, received her law degree from the
University of Valencia School of Law, and is a Ph.D. candidate in public
international law at UNED University in Spain.
About Santa Clara University School of Law
Santa Clara University School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of
California's oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated
to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics,
and social justice. One of the nation's most diverse law schools, Santa
Clara Law offers its 860 students an academically rigorous program,
including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual
property law; combined J.D./MBA degree; and certificates in intellectual
property law, international law, and public interest and social justice
law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of
Silicon Valley, and is distinguished nationally for our top-ranked
program in intellectual property. For more information, see law.scu.edu.
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