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May 31, 2015

A Reformer Takes to the Airwaves

May 2015

“I chose to spend so much time promoting the criminal justice reform in Peru because I trust that the adversarial system allows citizens to be closer to the justice system, promotes efficiency and generates confidence in the system,” says Fernando Ugaz, a criminal defense attorney who has collaborated with the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) since 2012.

“One of the biggest problems we have as lawyers is explaining the judicial system using very technical terms. ... We tried to do this in a way that would resonate with the general public.”

Fernando Ugaz Criminal Defense Attorney

Lawyers like Fernando have dedicated much of their careers to improving Peru's criminal justice system. Over the past decade, the government has undertaken a series of reforms to restore public confidence in government institutions—including the justice sector. A key element is the 10-year-long implementation of an accusatorial system-based Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which began in 2006.

Prior to the beginning of the reform efforts, Peru’s rule of law had been challenged. Political and social conditions in the 1980s and 1990s led to national terrorism, criminal delinquency, institutional corruption and general inefficiency within the justice sector. In turn, public confidence in the government—and particularly in the justice sector—had eroded.  To foster understanding and support for Peru‘s reform process, ABA ROLI is training justice sector personnel on trial advocacy skills and on investigative techniques, as well as undertaking a broad awareness campaign.

Since the CPC is being phased in, there is a need to promote both the reform process and the benefits under the new system among the public. A series of public service announcements (PSAs) featuring Fernando and his colleagues introduce citizens to new concepts, such as the presumption of innocence, victims’ rights and a citizen’s arrest. The brief radio shows also describe the roles and responsibilities of judges, lawyers, police, government institutions and everyday citizens under the accusatorial system.

The 16 PSAs, which have so far reached approximately 2.8 million people in eight judicial districts, also educate citizens about how ongoing justice reforms impact their daily lives. Fernando‘s episode featured him explaining the new role of the Attorney General’s Office and the procedural phases of the CPC.

Fernando, who describes the ongoing campaign as “a very important element of the reform,” says that he is “quite pleased and totally grateful to be a part of helping implement the new code, which will benefit both the people and the justice system.”

He believes that public understanding and support are necessary for the reforms to be successful. Fernando is also cognizant of the need to deliver clear, accessible messages to his fellow citizens, as this is the only way that their attitudes toward justice itself will be transformed.

“One of the biggest problems we have as lawyers is explaining the judicial system using very technical terms,” he said. “We tried to do this in a way that would resonate with the general population.”

By utilizing radio PSAs, ABA ROLI has made information about the reform process accessible to residents of remote areas. Fernando believes this wide reach will have the additional benefit of “bringing better ideas and identifying specific regional [challenges] to the CPC’s implementation.”

To learn more about our work in Peru, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].