The Hague has played host to a series of hearings of the People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists. And in September 2022 came out with a judgment that held the governments of Syria, Sri Lanka and Mexico responsible for failing to provide accountability for the killings of journalists in their countries. Despite her cold, Almudena Bernabeu, the prosecutor, took time to catch up with us.
With a long history in the field of international criminal law, Almudena is the Co-founder of The Guernica 37 Group and Joint Head of Guernica 37 Chambers. She explained what motivated the press freedom pressure groups Free Press Unlimited, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders to organise the tribunal, and why it only took her 24 hours to agree to join.
Almudena describes the endemic and transnational killings of journalists, who have shifted from being casualties in war zones to being targets of governments, regimes, and corrupted officials. She also highlights the patterns she found in the killings she prosecuted. Almudena is quite positive when we ask her what a People’s Tribunal – where NGOs take the lead, and perpetrators are not necessarily in the docks – can achieve in terms of accountability. According to her in this kind of trial, the process is “more important than the results”. The People’s Tribunal can be a first step in addressing the widespread impunity in the cases.
Almudena says she “got stuck in the 1980s” and recommends The Smiths as a background for writing pleadings and Jazz, especially Ella Fitzgerald, for reading documents. Almudena has also been binge-watching the series News Of A Kidnapping, based on the book of Gabrial Garcia Marquez, and raising the question of the role journalists play in our society.