MINELRES: Justice Initiative Activities Round-Up: October 2007 January 2008

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Tue Feb 19 09:13:30 2008

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New Report Provides Overview of Justice Initiative Activities

A publication released by the Open Society Justice Initiative in
December 2007 describes the organization’s recent activities,
accomplishments, and ongoing efforts. Report on Developments 2005-2007
surveys the Justice Initiative’s work in promoting open societies
through legal reform, emphasizing the organization’s impact on the

The 72-page publication uses feature stories to illustrate major
challenges confronted by the Justice Initiative in its six major program
areas: Africa, equality and citizenship, freedom of information and
expression, international justice, legal capacity development, and
national criminal justice reform. These stories describe key challenges
confronted by Justice Initiative programs, as well as major achievements
during 2005-2007.

Click here to download or order a copy of the full report:
Website Tracks Resumption of Taylor Trial

After a six month delay, the trial of former Liberian President Charles
Taylor resumed in January—as did coverage by the trial monitoring
website, www.CharlesTaylorTrial.org. The website provides daily updates
from the courtroom, as well as expert analysis and background
information regarding Taylor’s trial on war crimes and crimes against
humanity. With the trial taking place in The Hague, the
website—established by the Justice Initiative, the International Senior
Lawyers Project, and the law firm Clifford Chance—is intended to be
especially valuable for audiences in West Africa. Click here to go to
New Report Examines First Public Hearing at Khmer Rouge Tribunal

A 13-page report released in December 2007 by the Open Society Justice
Initiative describes and assesses several recent developments at the
Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the court
established to try surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, and notes
pressing concerns for the tribunal.  The developments and challenges
described in the report include:

The ECCC's first public hearing, on the pretrial detention of Kaing Guek
Eav (also known as Duch), who commanded the infamous Khmer Rouge torture
center Toul Sleng; 
The arrest of Khieu Samphan, who served as head of state during the
Khmer Rouge era, following his release from hospital. 
The need for a UN-appointed special advisor to the court who can assist
with administrative and management reforms and monitor their

Click here to download the new report:
Arrests Highlight Need for Reform at Khmer Rouge Court

The arrest of two high level Khmer Rouge leaders, Ieng Sary and Ieng
Thirith, marks a significant step forward for Cambodia's war crimes
tribunal, the Open Society Justice Initiative said in November 2007. But
in that report the Justice Initiative urged the Extraordinary Chambers
in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to take immediate action to improve the
court's functioning and calls upon donor states and the United Nations
to take more assertive action to ensure that needed reform takes place.
The latest arrests come in advance of the ECCC's appeal to donor states
for additional funding to ensure the trials can continue through 2010.
They underscore the significant strides the court made and why it should
be supported by the international community. But in its November 2007
report, Critical Issues Surrounding the Fundraising Drive of the
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Justice Initiative
urges states to condition future funding on demonstrat! ed results
addressing significant administrative, transparency, and leadership
problems at the court. Click here to read the full report:
Justice Initiative Calls on Khmer Rouge Court to Fix Human Resource

In October 2007, the Justice Initiative welcomed the public release of a
United Nations audit highlighting serious flaws in hiring and other
personnel practices at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of
Cambodia (ECCC). The ECCC must immediately and credibly address these
flaws if it expects donors to continue supporting the court, the Justice
Initiative said. The audit, commissioned by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP)—the UN body charged with overseeing
international donor funds earmarked for the Cambodian side of the ECCC's
budget—found that ECCC human resource management was inadequate by
nearly every measure. Most importantly, the audit found that a
significant portion of the staff hired by the Cambodian side of the ECCC
did not meet the minimum job requirements defined by the court.
Regrettably, the audit did not address allegations that Cambodian ECCC
staff are required to kick back a percentage of their salaries in
exchange for the! ir jobs. Click here to read more:
Justice Initiative Seeks Redress for Chechens Tortured by Police 

In November 2007, the Justice Initiative submitted an application with
the European Court of Human Rights seeking justice on behalf of three
brothers who were unlawfully detained and tortured because of their
Chechen ethnicity. The Makhashev brothers were detained in the city of
Nalchik in November 2004 and tortured by police who beat them into
unconsciousness while shouting racist insults. Despite ample evidence
and corroborating witnesses, the Nalchik prosecutor refused to take
action and local courts agreed that there were no grounds for
prosecution. The Justice Initiative’s application seeks a declaration
that Russian authorities breached the brothers’ rights: they suffered
unlawful detention, ill treatment and torture, and were denied an
effective remedy by Russian courts.  The application maintains that
Russian authorities violated the brothers’ rights as a result of
unlawful racist discrimination.

Click here to read the full application:
Freedom of Information Advocates See Victory in Treaty Rejection

A coalition of freedom of information NGOs claimed victory in November
2007 when a Council of Europe (CoE) steering committee rejected a draft
convention on access to information that was deeply flawed. The Justice
Initiative, as an observer to a CoE expert working group, provided input
on the CoE’s Convention in Access to Official Documents, which, when
ratified, will become the world’s first treaty recognizing the public’s
general right of access to government-held information. But despite this
input, the draft convention had several flaws, including a narrow
definition of “official documents” and a weak monitoring mechanism. The
NGOs organized opposition to the draft and were rewarded when the CoE’s
Human Rights Steering Committee rejected it and agreed to consider the
NGOs’ objections at its next meeting in March. Click here to read more:
Europe’s Highest Court Finds Racial Discrimination in Czech Schools

In a landmark for minorities across Europe, the Grand Chamber of the
European Court of Human Rights ruled in November 2007 that segregating
Roma students into special schools is a form of unlawful discrimination
that violates fundamental human rights. The ruling came in D.H. and
Others v. the Czech Republic, a case in which 18 Roma children
challenged the practice of shunting Roma students into “special” schools
for children with learning disabilities. “The court has made clear that
racial discrimination has no place in 21st century Europe,” said the
Justice Initiative’s James A. Goldston, counsel for the plaintiffs.
“Roma children must have the same access to quality education as
everyone else.” The decision is the culmination of an eight-year legal
battle during which the plaintiffs sought legal redress for the practice
of forcing Roma students—regardless of their intellectual abilities—into
schools for ch! ildren with learning disabilities. Click here to read
more about this historic decision:

Click here to read the Justice Initiative’s analysis of the decision and
why it is so significant:
Georgia Prosecutors Study Community Prosecution in U.S.

In late October, six senior members of Georgia’s prosecution service
visited the United States to observe and study innovative community
prosecution programs. The visit—part of a joint Justice Initiative-Open
Society Georgia Foundation effort to promote community prosecution in
Georgia—took the prosecutors to Multnomah County, Oregon (the oldest
community prosecution program in the country) and the Red Hook Community
Justice Center in New York City, among other sites. The community
prosecution approach, which emphasizes prosecutors’ partnership with and
responsiveness to the communities they serve, is currently being piloted
in three cities in Georgia.
Justice Initiative Seeks Relief for Slovenia’s "Erased" Citizens

The Open Society Justice Initiative submitted comments to the European
Court of Human Rights in October 2007, highlighting the plight of
thousands of residents of Slovenia who were unjustly “erased” from the
government's register of citizens in 1996. The comments were submitted
in the case of Makuc and Others v. Slovenia. In the case, 11 long-term
residents of Slovenia are challenging the Slovene government's stripping
them of legal status. The government's action, which followed Slovenia's
succession from Yugoslavia, left the applicants no meaningful
opportunity to obtain Slovene citizenship. “This is a pivotal
opportunity for the European Court to rectify the Slovene government's
arbitrary denial of nationality,” said Robert O. Varenik, acting
executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “Slovenia's
actions effectively rendered most of these applicants stateless, in
violation of international law.” Click here to read the Justice
Initiative’s brief:
In Georgia, Pilot Project Leads to National Implementation

Six months after a new law on legal aid was passed in Georgia, the
government has opened seven new public defender offices (PDOs) providing
free legal advice over most of the country. The project began in 2005,
when the Justice Initiative and Open Society Georgia Foundation opened
two pilot public defender offices to improve access to justice. The
success of these offices led to passage of the new law in June 2007 and
subsequent opening of the seven PDOs. The Justice Initiative continues
to provide support in building the capacity of the new offices. Click
here to read more about the new law and the Justice Initiative’s work on
access to justice in Georgia:
Pretrial Detention Reform Advances in Mexico

A November 2007 conference organized by the Justice Initiative and its
Mexican partner organization, Renace, drew over 200 participants to
explore pretrial detention reform in Mexico. Participants, including the
governor of Nuevo Leon, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice of
Nuevo Leon, international experts, and representatives of Mexico’s
federal government and several state governments, discussed fair and
rational pretrial detention policies as an integral component of the
larger criminal justice reforms underway in several Mexican states.
Those reforms took a further step in December, when Mexico’s congress
passed a bill overhauling the nation’s justice system. Among other
changes, the bill calls for the creation of alternatives to pretrial
detention. Click here to read more about the Justice Initiative’s work
on pretrial detention reform in Mexico: h!
Peruvian High Court Urged to Disclose Officials’ Assets Declarations

The Open Society Justice Initiative intervened in November 2007 in a
case before Peru's Constitutional Tribunal, urging full disclosure of
the assets declarations of public officials. The case, brought by the
Lima-based Press and Society Institute (IPYS), arose from the Ministry
of Transportation's refusal to provide full access to the assets
declarations of the minister and his deputy. This is the latest in a
series of assets declaration cases, which have led to conflicting
decisions by various levels of the Peruvian judiciary. The friend of the
court brief filed by the Justice Initiative with Peru's highest court
argues that assets declarations are an important tool of anti-corruption
policies adopted by many democratic countries, enhancing accountability
and the public's trust in government. Publication of the detailed
declarations is essential to ensuring they are credible and effective.
The full Justice Initiative brief is available, in English or Spanish,
here: http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103952.
Chilean Congressional Report Calls for Advertising Law Reform

In October 2007, the Chilean Congress approved the findings of a
congressional investigation on government advertising practices and
called on the government to reform the sector. A bipartisan
investigative committee established in June 2006 found serious
shortcomings in the way that government advertising is allocated among
Chilean media and other beneficiaries. The committee's unanimous report
criticized the lack of transparency in government advertising spending
and expressed concern that the bulk of such spending is concentrated
among a handful of national print and broadcast media. Small and
regional media, in particular, find themselves largely excluded in
practice from government advertising contracts. The committee called on
the government of President Michelle Bachelet to develop and present a
proposal for a comprehensive reform of advertising laws and policies.
The Chilean group Pro Acceso, in partnership with the Open Society
Justice Initiative,! provided ongoing assistance and expertise to the
congressional investigation. Click here to read more:
Note: This report describes activities undertaken by the Open Society
Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open Society
Institute, in accordance with regulations applicable to 501(c)(3)
organizations. It also describes activities carried out and funded by
the Open Society Policy Center (a 501(c)(4) organization).
The URL for this page is:


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 the following priority areas:
national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information
and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja,
Budapest, London, New York and Washington DC.


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