To mark International Women’s Day, IDLO would like to celebrate the work of Dr. Alicia Beatriz Pucheta, President of the Supreme Court of Justice, President of the Criminal Chamber of Paraguay, and Minister in Charge of the Human Rights Directorate and of the Gender Secretary of the Supreme Court. One of the leading women working in the field of justice and the rule of law in Latin America, not just her personal achievements as a women, but also her many professional ones - especially for marginalized groups - are admirable. Her experiences and successes offer lessons for the entire region and beyond.
Dr. Pucheta was one of the special guests, who spoke about her work, at IDLO’s recent Partnership Forum; we asked her what the rule of law and access to justice mean to Paraguay?
Dr. Pucheta: The ‘social’ state of the rule of law, which is how it is defined in the current national constitution, states clearly that vulnerable people should have the same access to justice as every other citizen, following the principles of equality, non-exclusion, and non-discrimination... First of all, citizens are given information on which services, provided by the judicial system, they can access. They are also informed about their rights, because if they aren’t aware of their rights, they can’t access them. These two points are very important for accessing justice. First, remove the obstacles, before talking about facilitating access to justice or the tools to access justice truly and effectively.
IDLO: Paraguay has a large number of indigenous populations. What kind of measures have been implemented to ensure access to justice for indigenous peoples?
Dr. Pucheta: Firstly, we hired anthropologists, who are better placed to communicate with indigenous populations. Secondly, we also hired intercultural experts to assist judges, who have to deal with issues affecting indigenous people. Thirdly, following the “Languages Law”, it is compulsory that judges are proficient in the Guarani language, given that my country is bilingual, and especially critical when it involves the rights of citizens. On the same note, the sentencing has to also be written in the Guarani language. Furthermore, the Directorate of Human Rights is working on a protocol to inform all indigenous communities of these judicial services.
IDLO: It is obvious that both the court and the judicial power in Paraguay are taking some important measures to ensure access to justice. Which improvements should other countries, courts and judicial powers make?
Dr. Pucheta: I can’t really give advice since every country functions according to its own particular situation and needs. That said, in meetings with other justice ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as at presidential summits and other gatherings, countries can present their successful experiences and practices as a model, which other countries might want to adopt. In this way, we have the ‘Judicial Facilitator System’ which has been replicated in various Latin-American countries, likewise the ‘Educating Justice Program’… Judicial Facilitators are unpaid volunteers, leaders within their community, who receive a training course by justices of the peace, this is the first access to justice in rural communities. These facilitators advise their community about issues affecting them: what they need to do, where they can go for recourse, which documents they will need. They take an oath before the Supreme Court of Justice and they provide the local justice of peace with a report on the main situations affecting the community.
IDLO: Dr. Pucheta, can you tell me in one sentence what a world with rule of law and access to justice means to you?
Dr. Pucheta: One will never be a good jurist if one doesn’t feel pain when facing injustice.
On March 10, 2017, Dr. Pucheta will be attending the Penn Law and IDLO's 2017 High-Level Roundtable event on Women and Legislative Reform, where she will be contributing to a panel discussion on 'addressing gender discrimination'. More information here