MINELRES: Justice Initiative Activities Roundup, September-November 2004

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Mon Dec 6 13:36:44 2004

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Activities Roundup, September-November 2004

Amicus curiae brief filed in Charles Taylor case. On November 25, the
Justice Initiative filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief
with the Abuja division of the Nigerian Federal High Court in the case
of David Anyaele and Emmanuel Egbuna v. Charles Ghankay Taylor and
Others on the duty of states to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes and
crimes against humanity, and withhold asylum from them. Amicus Brief

Handbook on Monitoring Election Campaign Finance. On November 23, the
Justice Initiative released a handbook to aid civil society groups in
tracking election campaign finances and exposing corruption. Monitoring
Election Campaign Finance: A Handbook for NGOs is the most systematic
effort to date to bring together and digest the range of campaign
finance monitoring experience gained in recent years. Handbook

"Access to Information: From Soft Law to Hard Law." On November 22-23,
the Justice Initiative convened a conference in London, attended by
participants from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S., as
well as from the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States,
and the UN, to identify strategies to activate the right of access to
information through litigation. Agenda

Justice in East Timor. On November 15, the Justice Initiative and the
Coalition for International Justice distributed a report entitled
Unfulfilled Promises: Achieving Justice for Crimes Against Humanity in
East Timor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, relevant UN agencies and
missions, the core group of states supporting justice for East Timor,
and leading international and local NGOs. The report, based on extensive
research, interviews and discussions in Indonesia and East Timor during
August and September, calls for an international commission to oversee
justice in the country. Report | Letter

Racism in Spain. On November 11-12, the Justice Initiative co-hosted,
with SOS Racismo and Women's Link International, a conference in Madrid
launching a project to document and pursue legal remedies for racist
violence and discrimination in Spain. Participants included Spanish NGOs
working in minority rights and antidiscrimination, academics, lawyers,
and international experts on litigating discrimination cases. Agenda

Pretrial Detention in Mexico. Also on November 11, the Justice
Initiative released the first in a series of monographs challenging
popular perceptions of crime and imprisonment in Mexico. The
Spanish-language study, Myths of Pretrial Detention in Mexico, notes
that pretrial detention has doubled in ten years without impacting crime
rates, and calls for fewer and shorter prison terms for pretrial
detainees, and a strengthened presumption of innocence. Monograph

Amicus curiae brief filed in Strasbourg court on Nachova case. On
November 2, the Justice Initiative filed an amicus brief with the Grand
Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in the case
of Nachova and others v. Bulgaria, involving the murder of two Roma men
by police. In February, the European Court's panel decision found for
the first time in its history a breach of Article 14 of the European
Convention on grounds of racial discrimination. In seeking Grand Chamber
affirmation of the decision, the amicus brief argues that states have a
duty to investigate racial motivation in crimes. Amicus Brief

Freedom of information in Macedonia. The Justice Initiative submitted
written comments on a draft Macedonian freedom of information law to the
Macedonian Ministry of Justice in October 2004. The Ministry indicated
that a new draft will incorporate the comments. The International Senior
Lawyers Project helped draft the comments. Comments

Expert meeting on Darfur. On October 28 in New York, the Justice
Initiative convened a meeting for UN Special Advisor on the Prevention
of Genocide Juan Mendez, a member of the Justice Initiative board of
directors. Human rights and humanitarian NGOs, academics, and UN
officials provided information and analysis on the unfolding genocide in
Darfur, Sudan. The Justice Initiative was also instrumental in helping
to convene an extraordinary session of the African Commission on Human
and Peoples' Rights on Darfur in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 17.
An opinion piece on Darfur by Justice Initiative staff was published in
the Nigerian Vanguard, on September 27. Op-ed

Merger of Africa's regional courts. The Justice Initiative together with
the African Court Coalition prepared a memorandum to the African Union
(AU) on the planned merger of the African Court of Justice and the
African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. The memo was submitted to
the AU's Commissioner for Political Affairs and the Legal Counsel in
mid-October. Coalition website | Memo

UNHCR meeting on statelessness. On October 10, the Justice Initiative
addressed a UNHCR Executive Committee panel in Geneva to mark the 50th
Anniversary of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless
Persons. The Justice Initiative made a series of recommendations to
national governments and United Nations bodies to prevent and
effectively remedy statelessness. "States may not deprive persons of
citizenship arbitrarily or in such a way as to engender statelessness,"
the panel was told. Paper

All-Africa clinic training in Durban. From October 4-9, a training
workshop for legal clinic teachers was held in Durban, South Africa,
with participants from Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The
workshop was co-organized by the Justice Initiative and facilitated by
the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Report

Findings of five-country freedom of information survey. On September 28,
Right to Know Day, the Justice Initiative released summary results of a
five-country pilot survey monitoring freedom of information in Armenia,
Bulgaria, Macedonia, Peru and South Africa. The survey marks one of the
most comprehensive efforts yet to test the limits of government
transparency. On average, only 35 percent of requests for information
were fulfilled. Overview results are available online. Executive summary
and South African report

"Budva Declaration" on freedom of information. Participants at a Justice
Initiative-organized meeting in Budva, Montenegro, adopted the "Budva
Declaration" on September 10, urging regional governments to adopt FOI
laws and improve existing laws. The meeting was co-organized with
Article 19 and the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee. Declaration

Click here for information about these and other activities of the
Justice Initiative in recent weeks:

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute (OSI), pursues law reform activities grounded in the
protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal
capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines
litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination
of knowledge to secure advances in five priority areas: national
criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information and
expression, equality and citizenship, and anticorruption. Its offices
are in Abuja, Budapest, and New York