Graduated in law in 1979. In 1980 she entered the diplomatic career and after having served in some missions to the UN in Geneva and New York and in the embassies in Tokyo and London, she was head of mission and ambassador in Jakarta, between 1999 and 2003, having followed the process of independence of Timor-Leste and the restoration of diplomatic relations between Portugal and Indonesia. In 2003, she suspended her functions as a diplomat to dedicate herself to political activity, and that year she was included in the Socialist Party (PS) list for the 2004 European elections, having been elected as a European Deputy, a position she held for three terms.
As a member of the group of Socialists and Democrats of the European Parliament, she was in charge of several responsibilities, including taking over the coordination of the Special Committee of Inquiry on Terrorism, the vice-chairman of the Commissions of Inquiry on the Panama Papers and on the Paradise Papers, heading several electoral observation missions and participating in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Commission and in the Human Rights Subcommittee, among many others.
Throughout her career, she has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Ruth Pearce Prize; the Human Rights ORGs in Geneva in 1989; the Human Rights Award of the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic, in 1999; the “Activist of the Year 2008” award from The Parliament Magazine in Brussels and the Outstanding Campaigner Politician 2019 award from the Human Rights Sergei Magnitsky Awards in London. In 2000, she was awarded the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Christ, by President Jorge Sampaio.