Justice Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza

Since 2018, Luz Ibáñez Carranza has served as a Judge of the Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court. Before joining the ICC, Ibáñez Carranza served as the Superior National Prosecutor of the specialized system of Peru for the prosecution of crimes such as terrorism, serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity. In addition, she acted as Coordinator of the 17 tax agencies of the aforementioned system.

 As a prosecutor, she implemented a series of measures to restore the victims. These measures supported, for example, the search for missing people; the recovery and identification of human remains in common graves; organizing public ceremonies for the declaration of public apologies of the Peruvian State to the victims; the restitution of the human remains to the relatives of the victims; and the rescue of children kidnapped by armed groups.

During her career, she was appointed several times as a Peruvian delegate to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) and other international organisations.

Justice Ibáñez Carranza has a Master's Degree in Criminal Law and a Doctorate in Law from the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University, in Peru; and obtained a degree in law and political science from the National University of Trujillo. She has been a professor since 1996, giving courses on issues related to criminal law, criminal procedure and human rights.

She has an extensive experience and recognized expertise in criminal law, procedural law, constitutional law, international criminal law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law, procedures relating to the investigation of criminal cases, procedures in the field of anthropology and forensic archeology, forensic psychiatry, forensic medicine and issues related to information and strategy.

Justice Ibáñez Carranza was profiled for ATLAS by Andrea Trigoso Ibañez, a qualified Peruvian lawyer who currently works as a civil attaché at the Embassy of Peru in the Netherlands where she is in charge of the matters related to the International Court of Justice. Read more about Andrea's career at the end of this profile and follow her @andreatrigoso


What pulled you towards international law/ domestic human rights law as a career? And what were your first steps?

I started my career as a criminal prosecutor in Lima at the beginning of the 1980s. I worked for almost 18 years in criminal matters only. By the end of the 1990s, and because of my academic curiosity, I started to explore the subject of organized and transnational crime, and I attended a number of specialized courses overseas on how to prosecute this particular type of crime. 

Afterwards, when the dictatorship in Peru collapsed, I was appointed as an investigative special prosecutor in the Office of the General Prosecutor of Peru. I was charged with the investigation of the corruption crimes allegedly committed by the former President Alberto Fujimori and other high officials that worked with him during his regime. After a lot of hard work my office managed to submit various cases with completed and detailed investigations setting out how the acts of corruption committed by the High Officials, and how the money from the national treasure was illegally distributed, spent, and hidden for the personal benefit of the former President and his accomplices.   

Upon the end of that appointment, I took the exams for a promotion in my judicial career. I was appointed as a national prosecutor (in trial) for the crimes of terrorism and grave violations of human rights. In parallel, I was also appointed as the National Coordinator of the specialized sub-system for prosecuting cases of terrorism, torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, genocide, rape in context of crimes against humanity, and grave violation of Human Rights, and so forth. The sub-system consisted of 17 prosecution agencies across the country that I supervised and monitored.

At that point, due to a decision from the Constitutional Court, we had to retry all the persons who had been convicted for terrorism during the dictatorship. This was because their original trials were conducted in military courts with magistrates who hid their identities, and in summary trials that lasted less than 24 hours. I was in charge of prosecuting the acts of terrorism committed by the leader (Abimael Guzman) and the leadership group of Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), the biggest terrorist group in the armed conflict that Peru went through between 1980 and 2000. 

Conflict is a double-sided coin, and it was clear that the armed forces had also committed crimes that entailed massive and serious human rights violations. After the final report of the Truth Commission in Peru, the sub-system that I headed also was directed towards the investigation and prosecution of state officials.

Consequently, I received cases with accusations of serious human rights violations that resulted in enforced disappearances, torture, massive extrajudicial executions, illegal detentions, sexual crimes, genocide. At the point in time when these crimes were committed, however, the Peruvian legislation did not enshrine these crimes in national law . Given that 30 years had passed, it was a troubling situation. It is in that moment that I turned to the panoply of international law. I had to explore in all the human rights conventions, international criminal law, and the practice of the international criminal tribunals to find solutions. 

Finally, I decided to integrate international law with domestic law in order to build a legal formula that allowed me to prosecute those human rights violations that constituted international crimes, without circumventing the principle of legality. Fortunately, my office was lucky enough to succeed with this formula in the prosecution of landmark cases. 


What would you say are the high points of your career to date?

Well, my first thought is that each step of my career has had a high point as I think that every moment in my career was special as I was always learning something. I believe that every step I took was taking me somewhere. Even when I did not have a clear understanding of where I was going at every moment, I had the certainty that my career was leading me somewhere. Consequently, I have always appreciated and enjoyed where I was, and I have always tried to make the best out of it.  

Now, turning to what I believe were the opportunities that enabled me to build my expertise in this field, I would say that first it was my appointment to investigate the corruption and organized crimes of high officials in Peru. Having specialized in the prosecution of transnational and organized crimes made me a valuable asset to the Prosecution Office, and opened the door to new opportunities that boosted my career path. 

The few hints we had at the beginning of the investigation led us to more evidence, witnesses, and bank accounts that brought us to other continents. This was a very exciting process. This was particularly because it was very complicated moment in Peru - right after the dictatorship fell - and nobody wanted to cooperate. Peru had not enacted laws against the dimension of the crimes we were facing. Pursuing investigations against a former Head of State and all his high officials was a big challenge, which I relished.

The opportunity to prosecute terrorism, crimes against humanity and other human rights violations, and also the national coordination of the sub-system I mentioned before, were all high points. The cases I had in that capacity were of my uttermost interest. I learned a lot, and I liked the human side I could see in those cases. 

Aside from the above, in my capacity as a National Coordinator, I had the opportunity to carry out acts that contributed to the reconciliation of my country. This included, for example, establishing protocols for the investigation of these kind of mass atrocities, for the excavation and identification of mass graves, and the effective reparation of victims. I was able serve as a liaison between the victims of these human rights violations and other national authorities that could provide them with assistance. This experience was very fulfilling in both a personal and professional way. 

Additionally, I broadened the scope of my understanding in matters of terrorism and human tights in a global manner, with the various appointments I had to represent Peru in International Human Rights institutions, such as the Inter-American Commission, CEDAW, CICTE, etc.

What are some of the challenges that you've faced, and how have you tackled them?

Being a female lawyer in a Latin American country is already a challenge because there is a patriarchal culture installed that demands a woman be not only as good as a man, but also to constantly prove it in order to gain respect among her peers. 

In my case, I cherished what my mother taught me and I always remembered that a female lawyer should see her male colleagues as equals, and I have kept that attitude along my professional career. Always thinking that I have as many qualifications as my male peers and that therefore I deserved as many opportunities as they do, I never settled for less. Even when it is true there is favoritism towards male professionals, the attitude and mindset of a female lawyer is very important to not desist and to keep fighting for what we know we deserve. 

Moreover, I am also a mom, and it was not easy at all to raise children and have a career at the same time. I did not have the support of my partner, and dividing my time between work and children was difficult, but not impossible. If one wants to have a career, one can find a method to make it work. It is very personal and it differs from one person to another, depending on one's family needs. For me, it was mainly a matter of organization of one´s time. It was hard - and sometimes it implies spending less time with your children, or having less time to sleep - but in my personal experience, in the long run it is worth it. I am happy with what I have done and what I have.

In terms of opportunities, I have always conducted my career as a magistrate in what I considered an ethical way, always acting according to law and to the mandate of my conscience. However, that did not always please nor favor the political interests of the people in power, and along my career I have encountered obstacles and have been undercut several times for promotions, because of this.

I was subject to an arbitrary dismissal from my position as a prosecutor during the dictatorial regime. I fought it in a labor and constitutional court and I won. I was re-appointed to my position. Even prior to being elected as an ICC judge, I applied three times to be a supreme prosecutor (which was the next and last level of my career as a magistrate). While I had the experience, expertise and qualifications, and I outstandingly passed all the examinations, I was not appointed. While there was no formal explanation, I believe that my earlier work ran against political interests prevented my appointment. Nevertheless I was never discouraged. Although I was upset and sad at times, I decided to use that energy to keep fighting for what I know I deserve, and to prove them wrong. Had not I been elected an ICC judge, I would have tried a fourth time to be a supreme prosecutor, because perseverance for me is fundamental in life.

In general, not everything of our professional or personal life is under our control. One cannot always choose. Reality hits you, but that should never discourage us from persevering.


Do you have any advice for people, especially women, who are embarking on a career in international law?

First I would say, if you want to work in human rights, you have to be committed to the cause of Human Rights. It is often a hard cause, and sometimes seems sterile and hopeless, so one has to persevere and be fully committed to it through thin and thick. It is a very demanding field where one assume the responsibility of other people´s lives.  

Second, work hard and act according your ethics even if it entails confronting political interests. In the long run that will get you recognition and the right opportunities, based on your work, which will give you the freedom and peace to keep doing right in whichever position you are. I was not known in the UN Headquarters before my campaign for my current position, but my previous work and experience convinced the States Representatives of my vocation for justice, for the fight against impunity and the defence of human rights. This also proves that there is more than one path to land in an international career if you work hard.

My third piece of advice is linked to my second. There are various ways to get into an international career. There is no one formula for success; one has to discover it along the way. It is fundamental to get field experience, in governmental institutions or whatever organization that provides you with that kind of experience. It is only there you get the reality check of the current status of human rights and you realize whether you like or not the lifestyle and all the sacrifices that practicing this area of law entails.

Fourth, always support and empower women. My mother empowered me and I did the same with my daughters, creating a network of support at home. I was given challenging and important opportunities that boosted my career by women in positions of power, who had my back - and I had theirs by delivering the best work I could. Wherever you are, you can always support and be supported by competent women who also need the opportunity to prove their value and grow.

Fifth, as women we tend sometimes to shy away from expressing what we want or believe. Be vocal instead. Speak your mind, ask for what you want and deserve at work and rest assured of your value, even if they reject your proposal.

Sixth: Persevere and do not feel too discouraged by obstacles. Be enthusiastic about the challenges you find, and build your resilience in bad circumstances. Be aware of the additional challenges we have as women, but do not focus on them, or use them as an excuse to give up and stop fighting for what you want.    

For women, who come from less favoured countries as myself, and who do not have access to an international education, or do not speak more than one language because they cannot afford it, or who cannot access international jobs because of their nationality, I would say look in your own countries for opportunities to work for human rights. Do not let these circumstances to discourage you, do not think for a second that you cannot achieve your goals. Indeed, there are going to be obstacles but you can overcome them, and one way of doing it is by getting field experience in your own countries. Be certain that our national experiences, based on our diverse realities can serve as great contributions to the international justice.

Finally, there are always opportunities, we have to keep looking for them and never give up. Even if you think you are defeated, I promise you are not if you keep fighting.

Justice Ibáñez Carranza was profiled for ATLAS by Andrea Trigoso Ibañez, a qualified Peruvian lawyer who currently works as a civil attaché at the Embassy of Peru in the Netherlands, and she is in charge of the matters related to the International Court of Justice Andrea holds Bachelor of Laws by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and a LL.M. in International Crime and Justice by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Research Institute and the University of Turin. Previously, she clerked in an Appeals Chambers on Corruption Crimes, and worked in a Law Firm and in the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in Peru. Subsequently, she interned in the Office of the Prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, as well as in the Legal Advisory Section of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. Andrea worked as the campaign manager of the candidacy of judge Ibañez in the ICC elections of 2017. @andreatrigoso

Sareta Ashraph