MINELRES: Justice Initiative - Activities roundup: November 2006 - January 2007

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Tue Feb 13 22:13:32 2007

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November 2006 – January 2007


Human Rights and Terrorism

A set of Principles on Human Rights and Terrorism which the Justice
Initiative helped to draft were finalized in November and will be
published in a book by the University of Ottawa. The Justice Initiative
contributed in particular to principles on access to information,
privacy protections on the release and sharing of information by and
among governments, incitement to terrorist acts, and racial profiling.
Other contributors included NGOs, experts from the UN, law schools,
universities and governments. The principles can be found online at

Joint Letter to Ban Ki-moon

On December 21, the Open Society Justice Initiative joined several other
leading NGOs in signing a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The letter urged the new Secretary-General to renew and strengthen the
mandate of the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General for the
Prevention of Genocide. The letter noted the international community’s
continued failure to prevent genocide and called for a new effort
against genocide and crimes against humanity. Click here to read the
letter - http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103577

"Holes in the Rights Framework" Examines Citizenship and Human Rights

In an article published in the Fall 2006 issue of the Carnegie Council’s
Ethics & International Affairs, Justice Initiative Executive Director
James A. Goldston looks at the "importance of citizenship in making
effective the promise of fundamental human rights protection." Noting
that approximately 175 million people worldwide are not citizens of the
countries in which they live, Goldston examines arbitrary denial of
citizenship and discrimination against noncitizens, and the role that
international human rights law can play in improving their situation. To
read the complete article, click here -


Justice Initiative Files Amicus Brief in Genocide Case

In January 2007, the Justice Initiative submitted an amicus brief to the
Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
(ICTR), in the case of Ferdinand Nahimana, Jean-Bosco Barayagwize and
Hassan Ngeze v. The Prosecutor. The ICTR’s Trial Chamber found in 2003
that Nahimana, Barayagwize and Ngeze were guilty of crimes related to
the Rwandan genocide, including using the media for the direct and
public incitement to commit genocide. The brief, which was co-signed by
11 other NGOs, made clear that amici shared the view of the Trial
Chamber that there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendants of
serious crimes, including in particular the crime of direct and public
incitement to commit genocide as it relates to relevant broadcasts of
Radio Télévision des Mille Collines. But it noted that some portions of
the Trial Chamber's legal reasoning present a potential threat to
expression which is protected under international law while others
transform—or could be interpreted to transform—into an international
crime speech that international law allows, but does not require, States
to proscribe under carefully defined circumstances in domestic law.
These portions of the decision could potentially provide cover for the
suppression of legitimate dissent through overly broad restrictions on
hate speech and incitement, and, amici urged, should be modified or
clarified on appeal to ensure that the aims of international justice are
fulfilled without undermining protection of free expression. The Appeals
Chamber accepted the brief and is expected to issue its ruling later
this year. Click here to read the brief -

Police Reform Advocates Focus on West Africa 

Advocates from senior levels of police services, police oversight
bodies, governments, academia, and civil society met in Abuja, Nigeria
from December 11-13 at a regional conference on police reform in West
Africa. Over 80 participants from 18 African nations attended the
conference, which was organized by the Justice Initiative in
collaboration with the CLEEN Foundation, the Africa Police Civilian
Oversight Forum, and the Centre for Development Studies of the
University of Jos, Nigeria, with funding support from the Open Society
Initiative for West Africa and Ford Foundation. Conference participants
examined different aspects of police recruitment and personnel
practices, infrastructure and communications needs, legal frameworks,
internal disciplinary and oversight mechanisms, and reforms in the
different contexts of West Africa. In particular, participants
considered policing needs in West African countries involved in or
emerging from conflicts, including Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra
Leone. Participants at the conference resolved to establish a West
African Police Reform Network to collect and disseminate information on
police reform initiatives in West Africa. CLEEN Foundation will act as
interim host for the network. 

Justice Initiative Lauds Adoption of Freedom of Information Bill by
Nigerian Senate 

On November 16, the Justice Initiative hailed the Nigerian Senate’s
approval of a freedom of information bill and urged the Senate and House
to quickly harmonize their legislation so it could be presented to
President Olusegun Obasanjo for his signature. If the bill becomes law,
Nigeria will become just the fourth African country with a freedom of
information law, following South Africa, Uganda and Angola. “This is an
important step for Nigeria,” said Maxwell Kadiri, junior legal officer
in the Justice Initiative’s Abuja office. “If and when the bill becomes
law, it will further government transparency and increase public
participation in the democratic process.” The bill’s adoption is a
significant victory for Nigeria’s freedom of information advocates who
have championed its passage for over six years. The Justice Initiative
worked with Nigerian partners to critique the various draft laws, build
civil society support, and educate legislators on the benefits of a
robust law.

North African Lawyers Discuss Litigating before the African Commission
on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Human rights lawyers from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan, and
Tunisia convened on November 6-8 in Cairo for a workshop to promote
litigation before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The workshop opened with a public seminar commemorating the 25th
Anniversary of the African Human Rights Protection System and continued
with two days of intensive sessions covering substantive and procedural
guidance on bringing cases before the African Commission. The Justice
Initiative co-organized the event with the Egyptian Initiative for
Personal Rights, the American University in Cairo, and INTERIGHTS.


Clinical Legal Education Training Materials Available Online

Curriculum materials on how to teach clinical legal education (CLE) and
street law, and how to operate a university-based clinic, were added to
the Justice Initiative’s website in January. The materials were
developed for the First Southeast Asian Clinical Teacher Training
workshop, in which faculty from law schools in seven Southeast Asian
nations met from January 30 to February 3 in Manila for specialized
training in teaching CLE. The training materials cover a range of
topics, from the general (e.g. an overview of the CLE field) to the
specific (e.g. how to teach negotiation and mediation skills). Case
studies are used throughout to illustrate the lessons. “Although these
materials were developed for a Southeast Asian audience, they can be
used in other contexts as well,” said Mariana Berbec-Rostas, the Justice
Initiative’s junior legal officer for Legal Capacity Development.
“Anyone who wants to learn about clinical legal education methodology or
how to teach students in a CLE program can benefit.” Click here to
access the training materials -

Urgent Action Needed on Rules for Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Urgent action is needed to ensure the timely adoption of rules to govern
the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the Justice
Initiative said on January 29. Last week's reported progress is welcome,
but concerns about delays and political interference at the court must
be addressed quickly, the group said. A review committee of nine judges
from the ECCC—the court charged with prosecuting the senior leaders and
those most responsible for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge—met last week
to clarify the internal rules that will govern the court. While this
Review Committee settled many outstanding questions, significant issues
remain which could affect the court's ability to meet international
standards, including the full and independent participation of
international defense counsel. Concerns about political interference in
the process continue to stoke fears that Cambodian judges may not be
free to exercise independent judgment. Click here to read the full
Justice Initiative announcement -

Juvenile Justice Reform Advances in Kazakhstan

Following the completion of a Justice Initiative-led pilot project to
reform juvenile justice in Kazakhstan, the chair of the country’s
Supreme Court declared that the project’s reforms should be implemented
throughout the country. The announcement came at a December meeting on
the reform effort, which included representatives of the Bar Association
of Kazakhstan and government agencies involved in administering justice
for juveniles. Meeting participants heard presentations on the project’s
results from judges in the pilot districts and international experts.
Noting that the project improved justice for juveniles, the chair of the
Supreme Court called for creation of a nationwide juvenile justice
system that includes specially trained police, prosecutors, judges,
attorneys and social workers. Meeting attendees agreed to create a
network of Rights Implementation Monitoring Boards to track
implementation of the new system.

Justice Initiative Featured on PBS “NewsHour”
The December 18 broadcast of PBS’s national news program, “NewsHour with
Jim Lehrer,” featured a story on the Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia that includes commentary from the Justice
Initiative’s Heather Ryan. The segment provides an overview of the
court’s responsibilities, with an emphasis on the many challenges it
faces. Click here to listen to the story -

Khmer Rouge Court Session Highlights Need for More Active International

In a statement released November 28, the Justice Initiative, noted that
judges in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia recently
failed to reach agreement on the procedural rules that will govern the
trials of senior leaders and those most responsible for the crimes of
the Khmer Rouge. Calling the failure "disappointing but not surprising,"
the Justice Initiative called for greater international engagement with
and support for the court, especially in facilitating judicial
leadership. Click here to read the complete statement -


Public Defenders from Seven Nations Gather for Training

Over 30 public defenders from seven countries gathered in Cheltenham,
England for a workshop on improving public defense services. The First
Regional Workshop on Public Defense brought together public defenders
from Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia and
Ukraine. The January 24-27 training was organized by the Justice
Initiative, in cooperation with the Public Defender Service of the Legal
Services Commission of England and Wales. The workshop addressed both
substantive issues of criminal defense, as well as the organizational
aspects of operating a public defender office. The Cheltenham workshop
was the first to bring together public defenders from all the countries
where the Justice Initiative’s legal aid program operates. Click here
for more information on the training -

Europe’s Highest Court Hears Oral Arguments in Landmark Segregation Case

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights heard oral
arguments on January 17 in D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic. The
case is the first challenge at the European level to the practice of
educational discrimination—widespread throughout Central and South East
Europe—in which Roma children are routinely placed in schools for the
mentally disabled, regardless of their actual intellectual abilities.
The applicants, 18 Roma children forced to attend racially segregated
schools in the Czech Republic, are being represented by the Justice
Initiative and the European Roma Rights Centre. Click here to learn more
about the case and read case documents -

Ukraine Public Defender Office Promotes Rights of the Accused

A newly opened public defender office in Kharkiv, Ukraine recorded a
major success in December when it received assurances from local police
that they will follow a regional agreement establishing new protections
for people accused of committing crimes. The office, which commenced
operation in July, provides free, high quality legal representation to
people charged with crimes but unable to afford a lawyer. The agreement,
memorialized in a televised signing ceremony on September 19 with
Regional Director of Police I.V. Repeshko and the public defender
office, guaranteed several new protections for accused persons,
- Access to a lawyer from the public defender office before the accused
is interviewed by police;
- A private room where the accused and his/her lawyer can meet
privately; and
- Permission for the lawyer to visit the accused in jail as often as
needed for the duration of the proceedings. 
With local police pledging support, the prospects of police cooperation
with the pilot office are greatly enhanced. The public defender office,
currently staffed by five lawyers, is a joint project of the
International Renaissance Foundation, the Ukraine Ministry of Justice,
and the Justice Initiative.

Council of Europe Urged to Recognize Broad Right of Access to

Three leading freedom of information organizations called on the Council
of Europe to ensure that its treaty on access to official documents
provides a robust safeguard of the right to government-held information.
On November 15, Access Info Europe, ARTICLE 19 and the Justice
Initiative presented a joint briefing to the Group of Specialists which
is preparing the treaty, noting that the working draft in several
respects sets a lower standard than the practice of most countries in
the region. The briefing, based on a survey of access to information
laws of 26 Council of Europe Member States, can be downloaded at
http://www.access-info.org/ or here -

European Court Case Seeks Justice for Violently Evicted Roma in Russia

In a major legal challenge to human rights violations against Roma in
Russia, the Justice Initiative submitted an application to the European
Court of Human Rights on November 3, on behalf of Roma victims of the
violent, unlawful and racially-motivated destruction of the village of
Dorozhnoe, Kaliningrad. During the week of May 29 through June 2, 2006,
special police forces and Russian government officials bulldozed the
victims’ houses and set fire to their possessions. In carrying out the
forced evictions, the authorities menaced the victims with machine guns
and shouted racist remarks, such as “You the Gypsies – get out of our
land.” Click here to read more, including the full text of the
application -

First Community Prosecution Training Held in Georgia

Prosecutors in Georgia participated in the country's first training on
community prosecution, meant to help them become more effective by being
responsive to the communities they represent. The training, held
November 1-2, was organized by the Justice Initiative and the Open
Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), in collaboration with the Office of
the Prosecutor-General of Georgia. The training is an important element
of a two year Justice Initiative-OSGF project to develop community
prosecution in Georgia, increasing both the public accountability of
prosecutors and their ability to combat certain forms of crime and
public insecurity. The project is training prosecutors to forge closer
ties with local communities and be more responsive to local needs, with
the goal of increasing the public's trust in the prosecution service and
the criminal justice system as a whole. Originating in the United
States, community prosecution is a growing movement in countries as
diverse as Chile, South Africa and the Netherlands. The training is part
of a community prosecution pilot project in the Mtskheta district of
Georgia, located 30 km. north of the capital, Tbilisi. If successful,
the Mtskheta pilot project will be replicated in other parts of Georgia.


Experts Examine Government Advertising in Chile 

In December, the Justice Initiative and Chilean partner NGO Proacceso
organized an experts’ visit to Chile to look at the government’s
advertising policy and possible use of advertising funds to influence
media coverage. The team of experts, which included Eduardo Bertoni, a
former OAS special rapporteur for freedom of expression, and
representatives of the Justice Initiative and partner organizations,
made formal presentations to a hearing of the congressional commission
that is investigating government advertising practices, and participated
in a public seminar on the topic. Discussions with individual members of
Congress and others brought to light new allegations that certain state
companies appear to be using their advertising leverage to silence media
criticism. The Justice Initiative is currently investigating and
documenting forms of “soft censorship” in Latin America, including
Chile. Click here for the Justice Initiative’s book on soft censorship
in Argentina -

Mexico Plans Its First Pretrial Services Agency

Mexican officials gathered in early November to plan the country's first
pretrial services agency, a major step in reforming Mexico's use of
pretrial detention. Recent changes in Mexico's criminal justice system
are leading states to reform their use of pretrial detention, in which
defendants are held in jail rather than released under bail or some
other form of cautionary measure. At the invitation of the attorney
general of Chihuahua, the Justice Initiative and its Mexican partner
organization, Renace, A.B.P., are helping the state government of
Chihuahua establish a pilot pretrial services agency in the state
capitol. The agency is expected to: evaluate individual defendants based
on transparent and accurate criteria; provide impartial information to
judicial officers to help them determine whether a defendant should be
released or detained; and provide an array of supervision services for
defendants who would otherwise not be released while awaiting trial. The
November meeting was part of a larger Justice Initiative project on
pretrial detention in Mexico, which seeks to promote the presumption of
innocence and reduce the use of unnecessary pretrial detention.


Promoting Legal Clinics in the Middle East

On November 8-9, 2006, the Justice Initiative held a regional training
in Istanbul on the challenges, methods, and lessons of clinical legal
education for law professors, advocates and faculty from Lebanon,
Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The meeting, organized in cooperation with
the Bilgi University Legal Clinic and with the financial support from
OSI’s Middle East/North Africa program, focused on the mission,
objectives, and components of clinical legal education methodology, as
well as the operational challenges and strategies for establishing and
running university legal aid or community empowerment clinics. The
meeting represented the culmination of the Justice Initiative’s work
with universities in the region during a year in which the Justice
Initiative launched the first criminal defense clinic at Herat
University in Afghanistan in December. 

The URL for this page is:

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open
Society Institute , 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 the following priority areas:
national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information
and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja,
Budapest, and New York. 


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