Transnational Program on Criminal Justice

UCLA Law Alumna Authors Book on Colombian Criminal Justice Reforms

20180101 Victims Rights in Flux

Astrid Liliana Sanchez-Mejia, who earned her SJD at UCLA School of Law and is now a law professor at Javieriana University in Colombia, has authored a book examining the development and impact of recent reforms in the Colombian judicial system. Based on the dissertation Sanchez-Mejia wrote while at UCLA Law, "Victims' Right in Flux: Crime Justice Reform" (Springer) concludes that reforms meant to improve victim's rights have been blunted by a subsequent shift toward a more adversarial criminal justice system in Colombia.

In 1990s and early 2000s, Colombia enacted judicial reforms intended, in part, to give greater voice to victims of crime. Sanchez-Mejia found that at first the changes, including the creation of a constitutional court, benefitted victims by offering them a greater role in the process.

But in 2002 the Colombian Attorney General effectively reversed the direction of reform by advancing an adversarial model of justice—strongly pitting prosecutors against defense lawyers—that curbed the advances made on behalf of victims. The book assesses data from the criminal justice system to conclude that the more recent approach has eroded efforts towards restorative justice and done little to protect victims' rights.

Sanchez-Mejia earned her S.J.D. at UCLA Law under the supervision of professor Máximo Langer, faculty director of the Criminal Justice Program and director of the Transnational Criminal Justice Program at UCLA Law. A Fulbright Fellow, Sanchez-Mejia earned an LL.M. at NYU, a Masters of Law at Los Andes University in Colombia and her law degree from Javieriana University, where she is now a professor focusing on criminal justice, human rights and violence against women.