Verónica Marisol Quiroga Pando
Verónica graduated from the University of Chile, Faculty of Law Human Rights Center
Post Diploma degree program in “Human Rights and Women” Theory and Practice in 2009. She also participated in the Latin American Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Women (CLADEM) “International Litigation” Program in Lima, Peru in August 2008. She attended the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar specializing in the enforcement and justiciability of human rights in 2005, the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés Faculty of Law, Master in Criminal Science and Criminology, and UCB Bolivian Catholic University where she obtained her law degree.
She currently works at the Universidad Franz Tamayo in La Paz as a Professor of Higher Education and Chair of the Labor Law and Human Rights Law Departments. She has participated in and conducted numerous training workshops – including as a “Consultant for the drafting of the “Comprehensive Law to Ensure Respect for Women, a Dignified Life Free of Violence” in 2009, Proposed Amendments to the rules of the National Police regarding mainstream Gender and Human Rights in coordination with the Bolivian Chapter and the Community Human Rights in 2008, as well as workshops at the National Advisory and Advocacy of Human Rights in the National Police. She also conducted training on “International Human Rights Litigation” for lawyers from the Latin American Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Women (CLADEM) in Bolivia in 2009. Verónica is committed to the idea of ensuring competent criminal defense to citizens of Bolivia, particularly women who are often discriminated against and marginalized within society.
The new political, social and cultural structure in Bolivia includes a new State Constitution and legal framework that explicitly includes many human rights under the commitments made by the State towards the international community. This new situation presents a job for the community of human rights activists, which is aimed at achieving the direct implementation of these guarantees into Bolivia society. Amongst these guarantees is the right to due process and competent legal representation, which is systematically denied to citizens due to the following factors: (i) the high crime rate and increasing need for formal public defenders, (ii) the presence of extreme poverty, and (iii) a lack of allocation of resources to public defender offices by the State.
These factors which deny citizens access to legal representation and due process are more serious for women, who frequently do not have legal defense provided by the State. There are numerous existing cultural stereotypes, which make it even more difficult for women to secure direct legal representation – including the idea that women are breaking the patterns required by society and causing the uprooting of the nuclear family unit. Women are often mistreated within the criminal justice system and denied access to counsel, based on these existing gender bias and cultural stereotypes.
The Executive and Judicial branches of the Bolivian State provide free technical defense for individuals with scarce resources – but this right is restricted for many women because men are often given a higher priority for defense. Noting the current conditions present in Bolivian prisons such as overcrowding, there is a strong need for criminal defenders who specifically seek to fill the existing gap in direct legal representation being provided to women. Veronica notes that women often do not have defense due to the limited number of public defense attorneys and the priority given to the defense of men. This is compounded by a lack of trainings for lawyers on issues pertaining to gender– creating a situation where the possibilities for freedom and access to justice for accused women is severely limited.
Verónica’s project will give free legal representation to women prisoners and also provide legal defense trainings with a focus on gender and human rights. The provision of criminal defense must take into account the situation of women within the prison system, overcrowding, lack of access to counsel, family constraints and the importance of implementing existing Human Rights instruments into local Bolivian legislation. The project’s main objective is to ensure that women in detention have access to justice and are able to fully exercise their right to defense. The project will also design and train lawyers on a litigation strategy which uses the human rights provisions embodied in the new State Constitution and international instruments of Human Rights – specifically CEDAW, the Inter-Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. The interpretation of such will incorporate international jurisprudence into the judicial character of Bolivia, which will ultimately have a binding affect.
In the long term, the goal is to ensure that women in the criminal justice system are faced with a system that guarantees their right to have legal defense from a perspective that focuses on gender and human rights. The project will help foster a core group of criminal defense lawyers who in daily practice are incorporating these tools as a strategy for the realization of women’s legal rights. The project thus consolidates the rule of law with the performance, security and exercise of human rights recognized in both the constitutional and international instruments. Verónica will work with the Network of Human Rights Advocates and Franz Tamayo University in the implementation of her project.