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Human rights lawyer

· ​In memory of Alicia Oliveira ·

The children of Alicia Oliveira – the first woman criminal magistrate in the history of Argentina, known for always fighting for human rights during the military dictatorship – once again found themselves before Pope Francis on Friday morning, 19 December, at Mass at Santa Marta.

María José, Mariano and Alejandro Sarrabayrouse Oliveira, accompanied by their respective spouses, Fabián Sultani, Ana Rosa Cunha da Cruz, Raquel Pannunzio, recalled some of the moments of Alicia's history with the Pontiff. The two were bound by a friendship dating back to 1976, when the woman, sought by police, was force to hide and remain away from her children for a certain period. At that time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina and offered Alicia the opportunity to relocate to the college of San Miguel, in the popular neighbourhood of Almagro, to elude the regime's threats.

Many years later, her daughter, María José, recalled that period, highlighting in particular her mother's commitment. Alicia had been among the foundresses of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies, was a Public Defender for the city of Buenos Aires, and actively worked for consumer protection, especially with regard to the corralito of 2001, that is, the economic measures taken by the government in Argentina to prevent a run on the banks.

In 1976, Oliveira, sought by the military dictatorship that had recently assumed power, was forced to leave her position as judge. Recently, on 13 December, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, conferred the annual Azucena Villaflor Award to the memory of Oliveira, who had died of an incurable illness on 5 November 2014. Villaflor was one of the foundresses of the Association of the Mothers of Plaza da Mayo. Thus, through the award, the two women now share a place as protectors of freedom and of the dignity of the human person.

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