MINELRES: Justice Initiative - Activities roundup: February - April 2007

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Thu May 17 19:51:46 2007

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“Groundbreakers” Event Celebrates Women Leaders in International Justice

The Open Society Justice Initiative and Open Society Network Women’s
Program honored women leaders in international justice at “Women
Groundbreakers in the First International Courts,” a reception and
dinner held March 8 (International Women’s Day) in The Hague. The
honorees were hailed for their pioneering contributions to gender
crime-related jurisprudence and helping to open the international
justice field to other women. Honorees included: Louise Arbour, UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights; Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY);
Dorothee de Sampayo Garrido Nijgh, first female Registrar of the ICTY;
Rosalyn Higgins, first female President of the International Court of
Justice; Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, first female President of the ICTY and
current Iran-US Claims Tribunal Judge; Elizabeth Odio Benito, first
female Vice-President of the ICTY and current International Criminal
Court (ICC) Judge; and Navanethem Pillay, first female President of the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and current ICC Judge.

Justice Initiative Briefs World Bank Officials on Pretrial Detention

Several Justice Initiative staff joined a roundtable discussion with
personnel from the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency, Poverty
Reduction, and Economic Management and Social Development sectors in
March to discuss the Justice Initiative’s efforts at measuring the
global scale and economic costs of pretrial detention, and making
inroads through targeted, cost-effective interventions. The meeting,
which sought Bank input on measurement methodology and strategies for
rule of law reform, also explored whether there are opportunities for
future cooperation in two core criminal justice areas: pretrial
detention and legal representation for indigent defendants. Click here
to see the slides used in the presentation:

UN Experts Urge States to Ban Ethnic Profiling

A UN body called for a ban on racial profiling by law enforcement,
condemning the practice as both ineffective and a human rights
violation. The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of
African Descent concluded a weeklong meeting on February 2 with the
recommendation that governments “adopt explicit legislative provisions
banning racial profiling.” The group heard expert testimony from the
Justice Initiative that racial profiling violates human rights norms,
seriously damages police relations with minority communities, and
alienates people whose cooperation is needed to fight crime and
terrorism. The Justice Initiative stressed that racial profiling is an
ineffective law enforcement technique that does not reduce crime or
increase security. Click here to read a Reuters article about the
group’s recommendations:


Pursuing Freedom of Expression in Cameroon

In April, the Justice Initiative asked the African Commission on Human
and Peoples’ Rights to re-open the Radio Freedom FM case, following the
failure of the Cameroon authorities to comply with the terms of the
friendly settlement agreement. Under the settlement, registered with the
Commission in April 2006, the Government agreed to grant Radio Freedom
FM a provisional authorization to start broadcasting, pending the review
of its license application. To date, however, no such authorization has
been granted and the station remains off the air. In the same
communication, the Justice Initiative, acting as counsel for the radio
station, requested the adoption of provisional measures (interim relief)
requiring Cameroon to allow the radio on the air while the case is
pending before the Commission. Click here to read more about the Radio
Freedom FM case: 

FOI Advocates Push for Bill’s Passage in Nigeria

In February, the Justice Initiative and other freedom of information
advocates celebrated the Nigerian Parliament’s final approval of a
harmonized freedom of information bill, which was then sent to President
Olusegun Obasanjo to be signed into law. However, Obasanjo has since
allowed the bill to languish and it now appears that he will not sign
it. The bill can still become law without his signature if two-thirds of
Parliament votes in favor of it. Freedom of information advocates are
now seeking to mobilize enough support in Parliament to override
Obasanjo’s de facto veto. The bill, if it becomes law, will guarantee
Nigerian citizens the right to access government-held information, and
would make Nigeria just the fourth African state to enshrine this right
in national law.

Justice Initiative Report Calls for Return of Expellees after Elections
in Mauritania 

After presidential elections in March that were heralded as free and
fair, Mauritania has its first democratically-elected government in
decades. The Justice Initiative in April produced a short report that
proposes action on one of the longest-standing human rights problems of
Mauritania: the situation of black Mauritanians who were expelled from
the country—and their national identity cards destroyed—in 1989. The
report has been circulated to the African Commission’s Special
Rapporteur on Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Internally-Displaced People,
who has been working with the Justice Initiative on the problem, and to
other parties concerned with Mauritania’s transition to a human
rights-respecting country. Since 2000, Mauritania has defied a decision
of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights that called for
the return of refugees, prosecution for those who perpetrated human
rights violations, and compensation for victims, including action to
address the continuing problem of slavery. An article and photo essay on
the plight of Mauritanian expellees appeared in the February 2005 issue
of Justice Initiatives; click here for that issue:


Corruption Allegations at Khmer Rouge Court Spur Investigation

Corruption allegations leveled at Cambodian judges and court officials
at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) must be
investigated thoroughly, fairly, and quickly, the Justice Initiative
said in a statement released in February. (Click here to read the full
statement.) The Justice Initiative’s report of serious allegations that
Cambodian court personnel, including judges, must kick back a
significant percentage of their wages to Cambodian government officials
led to an uproar in Phnom Penh, with the government of Hun Sen
threatening to kick the organization out of Cambodia. However, the
report also led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to speed
up its investigation of the court’s hiring practices; the results of
that investigation have not been made public. In a letter published in
the Cambodia Daily on March 7, 2007, Executive Director James A.
Goldston explained why the Justice Initiative was compelled to expose
the corruption allegations, and why the UN investigation is in the
ECCC's best interest. Click here to read the letter:

First Clinical Legal Education Program Opens in Malaysia

Malaysia’s first clinical legal education program opened in March at the
University Teknologi Mara in Kuala Lumpur. Law students at the
university will be able to gain valuable first-hand experience through
public service internships with NGOs and legal aid societies. The
Justice Initiative provided capacity-building support to the university
to help get the clinic started. Click here to read more about the
Justice Initiative’s Clinical Legal Education project: 

Joint Statement: Urgent Action Needed on Rules for Khmer Rouge Tribunal

In a joint statement released in March, a group of human rights NGOs
including the Justice Initiative urged the Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to adopt internal rules of procedure that
satisfy international standards for the holding of fair and legitimate
trials. The groups called the ECCC, which will try the senior leaders
and those most responsible for crimes committed during Democratic
Kampuchea, “a last chance to provide justice to the Cambodian people.”
Disputes over the rules have delayed the court’s progress. The groups
argued for “comprehensive internal rules that satisfy international
standards and thereby ensure the independence of the judiciary and the
protection of the rights of victims (acting as witnesses or civil
parties) and of the accused.” Click here to read the full statement:


Executive Director Addresses European Conference on Terrorism

In April, Justice Initiative Executive Director James A. Goldston
addressed the Council of Europe’s conference, “Why Terrorism? Addressing
the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism.” Critiquing the
“reductionist thinking” that links terrorism to specific religions or
nationalities, Goldston focused on racial, ethnic and religious
profiling by police and other authorities. Noting that profiling is a
form of discrimination, he stated that “profiling is ineffective in
combating terrorism and may, by fostering more alienation, worsen the
situation.” He went on to recommend ways in which profiling could be
eliminated while enhancing police effectiveness. Click here to read the
full text of his remarks:

Study Tour Looks at Impact of Ethnic Profiling 

The Justice Initiative's STEPSS ("Strategies for Effective Police Stop
and Search") project organized a study tour on ethnic profiling in
April, to examine the impact of police stops and searches on ethnic
minorities. The study tour brought together police officers, minority
community representatives, and advocates from Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain,
and the United Kingdom for a week-long review of existing practices and
policies on recording and monitoring stops and searches and determining
their disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities. STEPSS is
an innovative project supported by the European Commission's AGIS
Programme that addresses ethnic profiling through the improvement of
police training, operational and legal guidance, and the supervision of
ID checks, stops and searches; the creation of a monitoring system that
enhances police management and accountability of stops; an increased
capacity of minority communities to participate in dialogue with the
police and set local policing priorities; and the generation of
replicable models of good practice that can be disseminated regionally.
Click here to read more about the tour:

New Book Examines Ethnic Profiling by Police 

In April, the Justice Initiative released a new book examining ethnic
profiling by police in Europe. Ethnic profiling is a violation of
fundamental human rights norms, but this widespread practice is little
understood and concrete data are scarce. "I Can Stop and Search Whoever
I Want"—Police Stops of Ethnic Minorities in Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain
fills major gaps in what is known about ethnic profiling by police—a
practice that has not been expressly outlawed by any European
government. Using quantitative data as well as interviews with police
officers and members of minority groups, the book looks closely at the
practice in three countries whose significant minority populations make
them the face of a changing Europe. Combining statistical analyses,
first-person accounts and policy recommendations, "I Can Stop and Search
Whoever I Want" makes clear that ethnic profiling occurs in all three
countries and is discriminatory and ineffective in combating crime. It
recommends concrete steps to improve policing and curb this pernicious
practice. Click here to order or download the 106-page book:

Court Filing Highlights Suffering of Roma in Dorozhnoe

In March, the Justice Initiative filed a supplemental memorandum with
the European Court of Human Rights in Bogdonavichus et al. v. Russia, a
case challenging the violent and unlawful eviction of six Roma families
from their homes in Dorozhnoe Village in Kaliningrad, Russia in June
2006. Based on interviews with clients in Kaliningrad in January 2007,
this memorandum informs the Court of the aggravated suffering that the
victims endure as a result of the trauma and homelessness caused by
their evictions. Most tragically, two victims who brought their claims
before the Court died as a result of deteriorated health conditions
resulting from the stress of the evictions and the subsequent inhumane
conditions they experienced. Forced to find temporary shelter through
the winter months, members of all six of the client families have been
separated from one another. Furthermore, the memorandum documents that
the local government has opened the land of Dorozhnoe Village for
development after having razed the Roma settlement that existed there
for five decades. Only two houses in the village remained standing as of
January 2007 and both of those were owned by non-Roma, reinforcing the
evidence that local authorities were discriminating against the Roma
inhabitants of the village in selecting their houses for destruction.
The Justice Initiative also filed video evidence, jointly produced with
the NGO Witness, documenting house demolitions in Dorozhnoe Village in
April and May 2006. Click here to read more about the case:

Book on Moscow Police Profiling Wins Award 

A Justice Initiative book documenting ethnic profiling by police in
Moscow has won an award from the Council on Foundations. Ethnic
Profiling in the Moscow Metro won a 2006 Wilmer Shields Rich Award for
Excellence in Communications. Click here to download or order the book:

Promoting Pro Bono Practices in Turkey

Istanbul Bilgi University, in cooperation with the Justice Initiative,
organized a meeting in March to discuss international developments and
national practices in pro bono legal work. Pro bono legal service is a
nascent field in Turkey: a pilot program was introduced last summer when
Istanbul Bilgi University agreed with two law firms to take clinical
referrals of domestic violence and human trafficking cases. The March
meeting was attended by the representatives of several leading Turkish
law firms and focused on the role of the legal profession in a
democratic society, legal ethics and the professional responsibility to
promote social justice, filling the gaps of unmet legal needs, public
interest litigation, and practical guidelines for establishing and
implementing pro bono practice at a law firm. 

Second Public Defender Office Launched in Ukraine

Ukraine's second pilot public defender office (PDO) was launched with
Justice Initiative assistance in February in Bila Tsirkva, outside Kyiv.
Lawyers from the office will help protect the rights of criminal
defendants by providing free legal aid and operating a 24-hour hotline
to ensure timely access to counsel for the accused. A cooperation
agreement committing local police to refer cases to the PDO was signed
by the Kyiv Regional Department of Police and the director of the Bila
Tsirkva PDO at a launch ceremony attended by a number of senior
Ukrainian officials, including the vice president of the Kyiv Bar, the
president of the Bila Tsirkva Court, and representatives of the Ministry
of Justice and the Kyiv Regional Police. The first Ukrainian PDO was
launched in Kharkiv in July 2006. A third office is scheduled to open by
the end of 2007. Click here to read more about the new PDO:


Chilean Constitutional Court to Decide First Case on Access to

The Justice Initiative filed a "friend of the court" brief in April with
the Constitutional Tribunal of Chile in that court's first freedom of
information case. At issue is whether the government may withhold from
the public information provided by a private company, without even
considering the public's interest in the publication of that
information. The Valparaiso Court of Appeals asked the Constitutional
Tribunal to decide whether a provision that grants Chilean public
authorities broad discretion to deny requests for access to state-held
information if disclosure might "significantly affect the rights or
interests of third parties" violates the constitutional right of access
to information. The Justice Initiative's brief argues that it does, and
that third party (private) information held by the state should be
disclosed, absent a clear showing of harm to legitimate commercial
interests. Such harm should be weighed against the public interest in
transparency. Click here to read more and download the brief in English
or Spanish:

Conference Examines Migration Law and Policy in Dominican Republic and

In March, the Justice Initiative and other NGOs convened an
international conference in the Dominican Republic to look at
citizenship policies and laws in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the
United States. Academics, policymakers, and practitioners from those
three countries and the international community discussed challenges in
addressing migration, including issues of legalization, enforcement and
deportation, labor, and citizenship. During the event, participants
called on the government of the Dominican Republic to reform its
citizenship and nationality laws and practices in order to end pervasive
discrimination against Dominicans of Haitian descent. The conference
concluded with the establishment of working groups to focus on migration
patterns and citizenship laws and policies in the three countries.


Legal Clinics Introduced to Lebanon’s Legal Community 

In March, the Justice Initiative’s legal capacity program, in
cooperation with Lebanese public interest center PINACLE, organized a
three-day training in Kaslik, Lebanon, on the benefits and operation of
university legal aid clinics. The presentation, attended by university
teachers and practicing attorneys, focused on efforts to establish legal
clinics at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik and Lebanese University.
These clinics would help to reform legal education in Lebanon by
providing students with opportunities to gain practical skills and
experience. Following the training, a team of clinical professors and
attorneys is developing clinical curriculum and draft operational
guidelines for clinical students. The first pilot clinic is planned to
be launched in fall 2007 at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik.

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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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