14 October 2016
Category : Interview
“The very essence of law is the defence and promotion of human rights”
Victoria Ortega Benito has been the Chair of the General Council of Spanish Lawyers since January 2016. She is also the first woman to serve in this role.
On the general website of the General Council of Spanish Lawyers, Victoria refers to the work of Spanish lawyers in the following terms: “We are becoming better and better professionals, although many of us have had to pursue training after finishing university and we continue to do so every day”. At FIIAPP, we wanted to learn about this reality.
What does your work consist of? How does the average citizen benefit from the work you do?
The General Council of Spanish Lawyers is the highest executive body that represents and coordinates the 83 bar associations in Spain.
Among its functions, apart from that of representing Spanish lawyers, there is a fundamental activity of regulatory organisation of the profession. Besides that, we work mostly in the area of advocacy that deals with its disciplinary part in the area of training, in relationships with the justice administration and everything having to do with legal aid. We also work to achieve more agile and effective justice, and we work on reports and studies.
Another important area of our work is in the cross-cutting international activity, where we fundamentally operate through our office in Brussels.
With respect to the office in Brussels, the work you do there is to be in contact with other European councils but also to do a bit of lobbying, isn’t that the case?
The impact Europe has is unquestionable and extraordinarily important for us, and we want to increase our work there while enhancing the possibilities for intervention.
In this international and therefore European scope, could you describe for us some of the achievements attributable to your presence there?
Yes. For example, I want to highlight the latest effort we have joined, which is the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (OIAD). There we have joined with lawyers’ councils in France, Italy, Germany…
It is an observatory that can have an extraordinary impact for colleagues who, for one reason or another, are in a situation of risk; we are working on this, and I believe that it will be successful and very positive.
In the area of the defence of human rights, what is your assessment of the work of the General Council of Spanish Lawyers in this area?
The very essence of law is the defence and promotion of human rights. Therefore, with the General Council of Spanish Lawyers Foundation, we have redirected this activity that we were pursuing with this group. In this, we have two scopes of action: national and international. It is one of the most respected and beloved institutions by the law profession.
The Council has collaborated in the EUROsociAL project for social cohesion in Latin America, which is managed by FIIAPP and funded by the European Union. What is an example of a success in EUROsociAL?
The tremendous work it has done for disabled Spanish prison inmates in Ecuador and for people who had completed their sentences but were still in prison. There we have worked very well and been successful.
Often times we work with great enthusiasm and idealism but the outcome is not positive. But here it has been which also serves as an inspiration for continuing our work in the future.
With respect to your appointment as chair, the first women reach this position, what is your assessment?
Let’s say that I value it as a start; the day we stop talking about this, the day it ceases to be remarkable, will be the day we have arrived at normalcy. I will say that my colleagues on the Council have given me a wristwatch with the inscription “there are no ceilings”. The day there are no ceilings, we will all have cause to celebrate.
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