MINELRES: Justice Initiative Activities Roundup: September to October 2006

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Thu Nov 30 18:12:31 2006

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ACTIVITIES ROUNDUP: September – October 2006


Best Practices Workshop for ECCC Staff
At the request of Prosecutor Robert Petit, the Justice Initiative held a
workshop on best practices and international law for members of the
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the court that
will try those responsible for Cambodia’s “killing fields.” Held on Oct.
23-27 in Phnom Penh, the workshop featured American University professor
of international law and Justice Initiative board member Diane
Orentlicher, Justice Initiative Senior Legal Officer Kelly Askin,
several scholars of international law and veteran staff from other
international tribunals. 

Op-ed: “The Secret Policeman’s Fall”
In an op-ed published by the Guardian on Oct. 26, Romania’s Minister of
Justice Monica Macovei cited the Justice Initiative’s new report,
Transparency & Silence, in arguing that access to government held
information is a cornerstone of democracy. Macovei links Romania’s
strong commitment to freedom of information—documented in Transparency &
Silence—with its progress toward European Union membership. To read the
full op-ed, click here:

Justice Services NGO Receives World Bank Grant
The non-governmental organization Timap for Justice received a three
year grant on Oct. 24 from the World Bank to provide justice services in
Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest countries. Timap for Justice,
co-founded by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Sierra Leonean
National Forum for Human Rights, is a pioneering organization that
trains and deploys paralegals in the country's rural areas. A new
publication from the Justice Initiative, Between Law and Society:
Paralegals and the Provision of Primary Justice Services in Sierra
Leone, focuses on Timap, highlighting cases that include a man cheated
by a corrupt local chief and a woman accused of being a witch. Click
here [http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103454] to
read more about Timap and order Between Law and Society. 

Op-Ed: “Grant Citizenship to All Native Born”
In an op-ed published by the Miami Herald on Oct. 24, James A. Goldston
and Indira Goris of the Justice Initiative decry the Dominican
Republic’s treatment of its citizens of Haitian descent. Citing a
landmark judgment by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that the
Dominican government illegally denies citizenship to children of Haitian
descent, the authors argue that the US and the Organization of American
States must do more to secure Santo Domingo’s compliance with the
Court’s decision. To read the full op-ed, click here:

Justice Initiative Intervenes in Armenian FOI Suit
On Oct. 16, the Justice Initiative filed written comments with the
European Court of Human Rights in a freedom of information case against
Armenia. The case, Geraguyn Khorhurd Patgamavorakan Akumb v. Armenia,
involves the alleged failure of an Armenian election authority to
provide information on its decision making processes, as well as data
pertaining to the campaign contributions and expenses of certain
political parties. The Justice Initiative was granted leave by the Court
to intervene as a third party in the case and submit comments on the
general principles involved. The brief argues that the existence of a
right to information is well established in European and international
law, and urges the Court to find that Article 10 of the European
Convention on Human Rights establishes a right of access to information
held by public authorities. The brief also elaborates on the close links
between access to information, free expression and political
participation. Click here to read the brief:

Spreading Good Practices from South Africa to Indonesia
Six law professors from Indonesia visited South Africa from Oct. 14 to
21 to study promising practices there for possible replication in
Indonesia.. The study tour, organized by the Justice Initiative, focused
on the development and management of street law clinics and community
based paralegal programs. 

International Tribunal Makes Landmark Ruling on Access to Information
In a decision released Oct. 11, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
broke new ground in declaring that all people have a general right of
access to government-held information. The Court’s pioneering ruling in
the case Marcel Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile marks the first time an
international tribunal has confirmed the existence of a full right of
access to information held by government and other public bodies. In
Reyes, the Court was interpreting Article 13 of the American Convention
on Human Rights, as it applied to government denial of requests for
information. In its decision, the Court referred specifically to Justice
Initiative research on access to information, and to an amicus brief
filed by the Justice Initiative together with several other
organizations. Click here to read more:

Justice Initiative Briefs European Parliament on Ethnic Profiling
On Oct. 11, the Justice Initiative briefed members of the European
Parliament on ethnic profiling by police in Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain.
Based on the Justice Initiative’s qualitative and quantitative research,
the briefing showed that in all three countries, there are clear
disparities between ethnic minorities and majority populations in their
experiences with police. Specifically, the Justice Initiative’s research
demonstrates that in Bulgaria and Hungary, Roma pedestrians are not only
more likely to be stopped and searched by police, they are also more
likely to be verbally and physically abused by them. In Spain, ethnic
minorities, including Roma and immigrants, feel they are targeted by
police more than non-minorities. The event was co-sponsored by Baroness
Sarah Ludford, MEP, and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR),
whose director, Pascale Charhon, presented their 2005 shadow report.
Ivan Ivanov of the European Roma Information Office (ERIO) and Chief
Inspector Anthony Enoch, head of the London Metropolitan Police stop and
search team, commented on the research.
A full report, “I Can Stop and Search Whoever I Want:” Police Stops of
Ethnic Minorities in Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain, will be released by
the Justice Initiative later this year. Write to
info@justiceinitiative.org to order the book.

Justice Initiative Highlights Priorities for Khmer Rouge Tribunal
On Oct. 4, the Justice Initiative released a summary of urgent needs at
the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). In a public
memo, the Justice Initiative urged the Group of Interested States
(GIS)—a coalition of nations assisting the ECCC—to act swiftly in
addressing emerging problems. Among other issues, the memo highlights
the need for the GIS to address budget shortfalls, ensure judges are
convened immediately to adopt clear internal regulations, and develop
independent investigative resources at the court. In addition to
publishing the memo, the Justice Initiative held a briefing for GIS
representatives in New York, featuring a presentation by the ECCC’s
newly appointed principal defender, Rupert Skillbeck. Click here for the
complete GIS memo:

Justice Initiative Briefs Human Rights Commisioner on Racism in Russia 
On Oct. 3 in Strasbourg, the Justice Initiative and the European Roma
Rights Centre joined Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Thomas Hammarberg for a panel discussion for members of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and other
interested actors on "Racism in Russia: A Growing Problem, a Lack of
Official Response." The meeting focused on the problem of racial
profiling by Russian law enforcement, and on the alarming increase in
racially motivated violence and systemic racial
discrimination—particularly against Roma—in Russia today, and the
failure of Russian authorities to respond adequately. The groups also
offered recommendations to address these serious problems. Click here
for the Justice Initiative's report on ethnic profiling by police in
Moscow: http://www.justiceinitiative.org/db/resource2?res_id=103244.

Reforming Libel Laws in Costa Rica
In October, Justice Initiative staff and Eduardo Bertoni, the former
Organization of American States special rapporteur for freedom of
expression, met with senior legislators and government officials in
Costa Rica to discuss the country’s defamation law reform process. The
visit, coordinated by the Institute for Freedom of Expression and the
Press, included seminars with legislative staff, journalists and
judicial school trainees. The Justice Initiative has promoted reform of
the country’s criminal libel laws since the landmark Inter-American
Court decision against Costa Rica in the Herrera Ulloa libel case
(2004), in which the Justice Initiative filed an amicus” brief. Click
here to read more about the Herrera Ulloa case:


New Study on Access to Information Finds Young Democracies Outperform
Established Ones 
A comparative study of access to information in 14 countries found that
transitional democracies outperformed established ones in providing
information about government activities. Bulgaria, Romania, Armenia,
Mexico and Peru did better in answering citizens’ requests for
information than France or Spain. The book, Transparency & Silence,
published Sept. 28 by the Justice Initiative, documents how various
countries did—and did not—honor the right of access to information.
Click here to order the book or download the PDF:

Justice Initiative Moderates Statelessness Panel at UNHCR
On Sept. 28, at the invitation of the Office of the High Commissioner
for Refugees, the Justice Initiative moderated a panel on statelessness
at a preparatory session of UNHCR’s executive committee. The panel, held
in Geneva, was attended by senior representatives from UNHCR and the
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as numerous

Public Defender Office Launched in Ukraine
The Justice Initiative’s project to reform the legal aid system in
Ukraine took a major step forward in September with the official opening
of a pilot public defender office in Kharkov—the first pilot office
opened by the project. A joint initiative of the International
Renaissance Foundation, the Ukraine Ministry of Justice and the Justice
Initiative, the project is establishing a sustainable legal aid system
throughout Ukraine that ensures access to justice for all indigent
defendants. A second pilot public defender office is expected to open in
Kiev by the end of the year.

Workshop on Freedom of Information in Africa
The Justice Initiative and Media Rights Agenda organized a workshop for
African freedom of information advocates on Sept. 22-23. Participants
from 13 nations met in Lagos to discuss key elements of good FOI laws,
strategies for implementation, and the use of strategic litigation. The
advocates also committed to establishing the FOI Center for Africa.

UN Committee Chair Calls for Adoption of Justice Initiative Practices in
Jacob Doek, chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,
called on the Kazakhstan government to adopt new juvenile justice
practices introduced by the Justice Initiative. During a visit to Almaty
in September, the chairman cited the Justice Initiative’s work in a
pilot project to reform juvenile justice and said the changes should be
put into practice nationwide. At the same time, the Almaty City Bar
Association approved a proposal to open a juvenile defense service as a
division of the bar association. The bar is expected to sign an
agreement with the city police under which the new juvenile defense
service will arrange for counsel in all criminal cases involving

Groundbreaking Lawsuit Challenges Racial Profiling by Police
In the first-ever legal challenge to racial profiling filed with an
international human rights tribunal, the Justice Initiative and two
other groups submitted a communication to the United Nations Human
Rights Committee on Sept. 12, challenging a prior ruling of the Spanish
Constitutional Court. Racial profiling is a growing problem in many
European countries and the communication asks the Committee to clarify
that police may not, consistent with the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, use racial appearance as the basis for determining
whom to stop. More:

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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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