MINELRES: Justice Initiative Activities Round-Up: February 2008-April 2008

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Sun Jun 1 12:10:44 2008

Original sender: Justice Initiative <info@justiceinitiative.org>


February 2008 – April 2008


New Book Examines the Global Cost of Pretrial Detention and Reform
Efforts Worldwide

In April 2008, the Open Society Justice Initiative released a new
publication examining pretrial detention—the practice of jailing
criminal suspects, sometimes for years, before trial—and efforts to
reform its use. Justice Initiatives: Pretrial Detention combines
accounts from the frontlines of reform efforts around the world with
thematic essays, including:

An overview of pretrial detention reform efforts and the elements that
can help them succeed, by Todd Foglesong of Harvard University’s Kennedy
School of Government. 
An assessment of the global costs—in both human and financial terms—of
pretrial detention, by Martin Schonteich of the Justice Initiative. 
A look at the need for reformers to be both data-driven and politically
savvy, by the Justice Initiative’s acting executive director, Robert O.
Click here to order the 184 page book or download the full text or
individual chapters:

Justice Initiative Expert Gives Senate Testimony on Rape as War Crime

Kelly Askin, the Justice Initiative’s senior legal officer on
international justice, testified on April 1, 2008 before the U.S. Senate
Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law about
rape as a weapon of war. Askin called on Congress to strengthen U.S.
laws to ensure that perpetrators can be prosecuted in the United States
regardless of where the crime occurs, and to give more protection to
victims of wartime sexual violence. Speaking at the hearing, chaired by
Senator Richard Durbin, Askin described “a crime that is destroying the
lives of millions of individual victims, their families and communities
in dozens of conflicts world wide but which is all too often ignored by
those who can help.” Her full testimony, which includes an overview of
the problem, a survey of related jurisprudence, and detailed
recommendations, is available here: http://www.justiceinitiat!


Rights Groups Urge UN on Justice in Northern Uganda
In a letter sent to the United Nations Security Council on April 22,
2008, the Justice Initiative and two other leading human rights
organizations urged the full pursuit of justice for mass crimes
committed in northern Uganda. The Open Society Institute, Human Rights
Watch, and the International Center for Transitional Justice expressed
their concern that “the Security Council may act to suspend cases
involving crimes committed in northern Uganda now pending” before the
International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC issued arrest warrants in
2005 against Joseph Kony, commander-in-chief of the Lord’s Resistance
Army (LRA) and four other LRA leaders for war crimes and crimes against
humanity. The LRA and the government of Uganda recently negotiated a
peace agreement, but Kony refused to sign unless the ICC drops the
charges. The rights groups argue that giving in to Kony’s demand would
sacrifice victims’ hopes for justice and undermine the independen! ce of
the ICC. Click here to read the letter:

Justice Initiative Highlights Progress, Promise in Mauritania
The progress and potential of Mauritania’s year-old,
democratically-elected government was examined at a March 2008
colloquium organized by the Justice Initiative. The event, which
featured Mauritania’s ambassador to the United States, a Mauritanian
refugee, and anti-slavery activists, explored a new law criminalizing
slavery, as well as efforts to repatriate thousands of black
Mauritanians who were expelled in 1989. Audio highlights from the event,
as well as excerpts from “Faces of Change,” a documentary about slavery
in Mauritania, are available here:

Lawsuit Seeks Greater Freedom of Expression in Sierra Leone
In March 2008, journalists in Sierra Leone filed a lawsuit with the
supreme court challenging laws that criminalize free speech and
authorize prison terms of up to seven years for those who criticize the
government. Sierra Leone’s criminal libel and false news laws allow
prison sentences for expression that “excite(s) disaffection” against
the government or “injure(s) the reputation” of the government or
individual officials. The Justice Initiative, working with the Sierra
Leone Association of Journalists and other West African groups, helped
develop the legal arguments. A brief filed in the case describes the
repressive effect of the laws, which can provide severe criminal
penalties even for true statements and peaceful expression. Click here
to read more or download the brief:


Promoting Community Empowerment Clinics in Indonesia
A workshop on university-based community empowerment clinics given by
the Justice Initiative in April marked one of the final steps in
establishing two clinics in Indonesia. In May, International Islamic
University will launch its clinical program, which will concentrate on
justice problems in rural areas, to be followed by the clinic at
Pasundan University, which will focus on juvenile justice. Through the
workshop, the universities received assistance in developing course
syllabi and clinical curricula. Click here to learn more about the
Justice Initiative’s work on community empowerment clinics:

Justice Initiative Commends Ruling on Prisoners’ Rights in Kazakhstan;
Calls for Investigation of Torture
In March 2008, the Justice Initiative welcomed a ruling by Kazakhstan’s
Constitutional Council overturning a law that made it a crime for
prisoners to seek “to disrupt prison operations” by injuring themselves.
The council accepted the Justice Initiative’s arguments, submitted in a
friend of the court brief, that the law violated the right to freedom of
expression so long as the self-mutilation was not life threatening. Two
dozen inmates had been charged with violating the law after nearly 100
cut themselves to protest torture and officials’ failure to address
their complaints. The Justice Initiative called on Kazakhstan’s
government to investigate fully the prisoners’ claims of torture and
demonstrate that it is improving its systems for preventing,
investigating, and punishing torture. Click to learn more about the case
and read the Justice Initiative’s

New Khmer Rouge Tribunal Report Gives Updates on Five Cases, Budget
Needs, More
A new report on the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
covers several major events from January and February of 2008,

The announcement of a revised budget for the court, seeking an
additional $113.7 million, amid reports that the Cambodian side of the
court could exhaust its budget in a matter of months; 
The participation of investigating judges in community outreach meetings
held in Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold; 
The beginning of civil parties’ participation in the ECCC. 
The 18-page report examines recent developments in the cases of all five
defendants now in the court’s custody and also looks at action outside
the courtroom, including expansion of the Victims Unit, which will help
victims become involved in the trials. Click here to read or download
the report: http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=104050.

Promoting Prosecution of Journalists’ Killers in the Philippines
A new campaign to address the killing of journalists in the Philippines
was launched in February 2008 at a conference sponsored by OSI's Network
Media Program, Southeast Asia Program, and the Justice Initiative. The
campaign seeks to motivate and train prosecutors to investigate and
prosecute the murders of journalists and leftists. The Philippines is
one of the five deadliest countries for journalists, with 32 murdered
since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. A
training held in March 2008 as part of the campaign brought together
over 75 civilian and military prosecutors to begin addressing the issue.
A forensic anthropologist whose participation in the training was
supported by the Justice Initiative has now received funding to help
increase forensic investigation capacity in the Philippines; the current
lack of such capacity is hampering prosecutions. Click here for more
information: http://www.centerlaw.org.


Court Study in Turkey Reveals Stunning Gaps in Legal Representation
Only ten percent of criminal defendants in Istanbul are represented by a
lawyer, according to a report released by the Justice Initiative and
Istanbul Bilgi University in April. The report, Alone in the Courtroom:
Accessibility and Impact of Criminal Legal Aid before Istanbul Courts,
presents astonishing results of an empirical study of legal aid in
Istanbul, including:

Although legal aid is free, less than two percent of defendants made use
of it during their trials. 
Approximately 75% of defendants who were sentenced to prison were never
represented by a lawyer. 
In only 7.3% of cases were lawyers present during police interrogations
of suspects. 
The study, which examined more than 600 case files opened in 2000-2001
and closed before 2005 and observed 173 court hearings in Istanbul
courts, is available here:

Legal Aid Project Tests Early Access to Counsel in Bulgaria
An agreement signed by Open Society Institute-Sofia with Bulgaria’s
Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior in March will help
protect the rights of accused people in police custody. The agreement
marks the beginning of a project to test the effectiveness of having
lawyers available 24 hours a day to provide legal aid to people detained
by the police. OSI-Sofia and the Justice Initiative will provide
technical assistance on the project and determine if it improves police
accountability and reduces pretrial detention. The project will be
piloted in Veliko Turnovo, in north central Bulgaria, before expanding.
Click here to read more about the Justice Initiative’s work on legal
aid: http://dev.justiceinitiative.org/activities/lcd/cle.

Dutch Government Database of Antillean Youth Challenged as Racial
In March 2008, the Justice Initiative urged the Dutch government to end
its discriminatory gathering and processing of sensitive racial and
ethnic data. The government-compiled database, known as the “Reference
Index of Antilleans,” violates both European and international legal
norms, according to the Justice Initiative. The Justice Initiative’s
brief argues that the use of ethnic or racial data linked to a risk
profile is a form of unlawful ethnic profiling amounting to racial
discrimination. Click here to learn more about the case and read the
brief: http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=104056.

Rights Groups Applaud Torture Ruling
In February 2008, the European Court of Human Rights reaffirmed the ban
on deporting people to countries where they are at risk of being
tortured. In Saadi v. Italy, the court ruled unanimously that no
circumstances, including the threat of terrorism, can justify exposing
an individual to the genuine risk of torture or ill-treatment. The
Justice Initiative joined with 10 other human rights and anti-torture
groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in
hailing the ruling. Click here for the groups’ press release and the
full text of the court’s judgment:

Justice Initiative Hails German Court Judgment on Religious
In February 2008, the Justice Initiative welcomed a judgment from
Germany’s Hamburg Labor Court that a Christian organization ,
Diakonisches Werk Hamburg (DWK), engaged in discrimination when it
refused to hire a non-Christian. While DWK acknowledged that the
applicant met all substantive requirements for the position, which had
no religious component, DWK required the applicant to convert to
Christianity before it would consider her eligible for the position. The
Justice Initiative supported the plaintiff’s German lawyer and will
submit a brief on the plaintiff’s behalf in DWK’s appeal of the Hamburg
Labor Court judgment. Click here for more:

Rights Groups Denounce Greek Prosecutor’s Racist Statement
Human rights groups in February 2008 denounced as racist a statement by
Greece’s top prosecutor suggesting that certain ethnic groups are
involved in crime. The Open Society Justice Initiative and Greek
Helsinki Monitor reacted to a statement made by Supreme Court Prosecutor
George Sanidas in December 2007. Sanidas, in describing crime in a
section of Athens, singled out as perpetrators “foreign women of African
and non-African origin” and “athinganoi.” The latter term is a
pejorative reference to Roma. Sanidas has not amended or retracted his
statement since he made it. Click here to read more:


Tierra del Fuego Takes Lead in Advertising Law Reform
In February 2008, the governor of the Argentine province of Tierra del
Fuego (TDF) promulgated a decree on allocation of provincial
advertising. This makes it the country’s first province to address “soft
censorship,” the government practice of using advertising funds to
reward or punish media, as documented in Buying the News, a report by
the Justice Initiative and Buenos Aires-based Association for Civil
Rights (ADC). The recent reform in Tierra del Fuego is due, in large
part, to the investigation and advocacy efforts of ADC and the Justice
Initiative. The decree includes a number of significant improvements
over existing provincial or even national legislation: it defines the
permissible goals and uses of government ads; establishes a provincial
registry for media interested in receiving government ads, which must
meet certain basic entry requirements; and more importantly, sets a
points-based system to make allocation decisions more objective. Click
h! ere for more about Buying the

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).

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