How to nail a dictator

How to nail a dictator
Ms. Bernabeu with an 83-year-old survivor of 2 massacres and a horrible case of torture by the Guatemalan army. Photo by Javier Zurita
by Brittany Yap |
The 2012 Alexander Law Prize honors Spanish human rights advocate and attorney Almudena Bernabeu, who has spent 15 years pursuing justice for victims across Latin America, Africa, and the world. The 2010 recipient, Shadi Sadr, appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Santa Clara Magazine.

As an attorney with the Center for Justice and Accountability—a nonprofit human-rights law firm in San Francisco—the 2012 Alexander Law Prize recipient, Almudena Bernabeu, leads the firm’s Latin America and Transitional Justice Programs. She has brought cases against human rights abusers in El Salvador, Colombia, and Peru for atrocities ranging from torture to genocide. 

Bernabeu is currently serving as the lead private prosecutor on two high-profile human rights cases before the Spanish National Courts, representing survivors of Guatemalan genocide (including Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum) and against the Salvadoran officials alleged to be behind the massacre of six Jesuit priests and two female employees in 1989. The eight white crosses in front of Mission Santa Clara memorializes the priests and their co-workers.

She and her team’s exhaustive work to find evidence in the Guatemalan genocide case is featured in the 2011 documentary Granito, How to Nail A Dictator.

“Almudena Bernabeu is an outstanding lawyer who has bravely stepped up time and time again to bring justice to victims of atrocities in other nations,” said Santa Clara Law Dean Donald Polden. “She exemplifies the Alexander Law Prize ideals of devoting one’s legal skills to alleviate suffering, injustice and inequality.”

Prior to her work at the Center, Bernabeu worked with two NGOs affiliated with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, helping with asylum and refugee clients from Latin American, North and Central Africa, and the Balkans. She has also worked pro bono for Amnesty International, Spain, and as an investigator for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

She was recently elected vice president of the Spanish Association for Human Rights, and serves as a board member of a group pursuing justice in Equatorial Guinea, EGJustice.

Bernabeu 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.

The Katharine and George Alexander Prize is awarded annually by SCU’s School of Law to recognize lawyers around the world who dedicate their career to correct injustices.

Click here to view a video of Bernabeu’s acceptance speech at Santa Clara University on March 14, 2012. To check out past winners of the Alexander Law Prize, visit the Alexander Law Prize website.

Winter 2014

Table of contents


Rise up, my love

There are the sanctuaries built for worship—and that carry beauty and grace for all to see. Then there are the improvised places of faith, perhaps more subtle in how they speak to the wonder worked there.

The chaplain is in the House

With the way things have gone recently in Congress, looking to the heavens for some help and guidance might seem like a very good idea. In fact, that’s what Pat Conroy, S.J., M.Div. ’83 is there to do.

Welcome to Citizenville

Who published the one book on government in 2013 that conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich told all true believers that they should read? Well, the author is now lieutenant governor of California. Before that, he was mayor of San Francisco. That’s right: It’s Gavin Newsom ’89.

Mission Matters


Women’s soccer wins the West Coast Conference championship.

Patent trolls, beware

The White House has brought on SCU’s Colleen Chien, a leading expert in patent law, as senior advisor.

A sight of innocence

George Souliotes went to prison for three life sentences after he was convicted of arson and murder. Twenty years later, he’s out—after the Northern California Innocence Project proved he didn’t do it.