Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

Senior Legal Advisor
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Maria is senior legal advisor at Human Rights Watch, focusing on the Americas, US, and Canada, as well as tech issues.

From 2017 to 2020 Maria served as the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading US-based organization fighting to end the global war on drugs, where she played a key role in supporting the campaign that resulted in the state of Oregon’s groundbreaking decriminalization of all drugs for personal use.

Previously, Maria held several positions at Human Rights Watch. As co-director of its US Program, she guided the organization’s work on US national security and criminal justice policy. As deputy Washington director, she conducted DC advocacy on a broad range of US foreign policy issues, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa during the 2011 Arab uprisings and in South Asia. Earlier, as senior Americas researcher, Maria covered Colombia's internal armed conflict and worked on the extradition and trial of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

Maria is the author of the narrative non-fiction book "There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia" (Bold Type Books, Feb. 2018), which won Duke University's 2018 Juan E. Méndez Human Rights Book Award; a Spanish translation was published by Planeta Colombia. She has been a recipient of an Open Society Foundations New Executives Fund grant, a Wasserstein fellow in public interest law at Harvard Law School, and a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. She clerked on the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; conducted sovereign litigation as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton; taught as a Crowley Fellow in international human rights at Fordham Law School; and holds a law degree, magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law. A Peruvian-American, Maria grew up in Lima, Peru, during the country’s internal war with Shining Path and the Fujimori presidency, and did most of her undergraduate studies at the Universidad Católica del Perú before graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.

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