María de la Paz Martínez Irigoitia

2011 JusticeMakers Fellow, Paraguay

María de la Paz received her law degree from the Catholic University in Asuncion and later pursued a Masters in law as well an additional Masters degree in “The New Challenges to the Rule of Law.”  María de la Paz has now been a law professor for several years at the Universidad del Norte and the Universidad Catolica. She has also been one of the people in charge of the “Execution of Penal Law” unit at the Universidad Autonoma del Paraguay.

María de la Paz has been involved in the realization of projects of the Interdisciplinary Center of Social Law and Economic Politics of the Universidad Catolica. She has also worked on a report titled “Elaboration of the Document of Design for the Application of Alternatives to Preventative Prison for Adolescents and Youth in Conflict with the Penal Law.” She did this as a member of the Institute of Comparative Studies in Social and Penal Sciences as part of the Project to Love.  María de la Paz is currently the Professor responsible of Political law I and II of the faculty of judicial and diplomatic studies of the Universidad Catolica. She is also in the midst of writing her doctoral thesis on the “Current problems of Penal Law” for the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain.

There are many structural deficiencies within the Public Defense Office. The Ministry of Public Defense, which depends on the Supreme Court, has no budgetary autonomy and self-sufficiency is assigned a very small budget for the needs it confronts. Although the Public Defense is also part of the judiciary, it does not have sufficient forensic, social or psychological assistance at its disposal. Public Defenders do not even have vehicles at their disposal. In Asunción, Public Defenders work in shifts of nine days, approximately every 36 days. They are called by prosecutors and judges when a defendant claims to have no means to afford a private lawyer. After being apprehended by the police and required to provide proof of insufficient income to afford a private lawyer, detainees are provided with free legal assistance by Public Defenders. They often deal with people claiming to have been tortured, injured and subjected to physical abuse by the officers involved in the arrest. Given this situation, Public Defenders require written record of evidence and request a medical examination upon call for inspection and treatment of the victim. For the reasons given above, such assistance often does not arrive or simply arrives too late.

The Project: Create a specific protocol for cooperation and work between six Criminal Public Defenders and the Medical Schools in the region The goal; to recruit  at least three medical interns who are in the legal medicine and psychiatry program at the National University of Asuncion or the equivalent with the intention of  implementing this program in order to introduce alternative measures to imprisonment.

The plan included organizing inter-institutional cooperation, presenting the cooperation protocol and tracking and monitoring the implementation of protocol assessment meetings of cooperation allowing recognition of State officials at different levels of performance. Ultimately she published the protocol and final presentation of the results to the authorities in order to achieve an institutionalized design to the sustainability of alliance and experience gained.