A Landmark Statement of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: Completed with CEELI Institute Assistance

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BrijuniWith CEELI Insitute support and encouragement, the Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe have joined together to sign a landmark Statement of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. The Principles were approved at the Annual Conference of the Chief Justices, hosted by the Supreme Court of Croatia, in Brijuni, Croatia, in October 2015. Justices from the Supreme Courts of 16 participating countries from the region signed the Statement. It represents the culmination of three years of work by the Justices.

The Statement is to some extent modeled on the 1997 Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, drafted and signed by the Conference of Chief Justices of the Asia Pacific Region. The “Brijuni Statement of Principles“ will now stand alongside the Bangalore Principles and other key international instruments which provide a foundation in international law for the concept of an independent judiciary as fundamental to the Rule of Law. As the Brijuni Principles themselves state: “[T]he implementation and protection of all rights depends on the existence of a competent, independent, and impartial judiciary.“ As was stated by the Hon. Branko Hrvatin, President of the Supreme Court of Croatia, “The Brijuni Statement represents the unwavering commitment by the Judiciaries of Central and Eastern Europe to the rule of law, and to a shared belief in judicial independence.“

Significantly, the Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe was originally launched with INL support, at the CEELI Insitute in Prague, back in 2011, with participation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Since then, it has become a self-sustaining annual effort, largely organized and financed by the participating Courts themselves. The CEELI Insitute, along with our board member, Judge John M. Walker, Jr., of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, continue to be actively involved in supporting the efforts and organization of the Conference. Judge Walker was instrumental in bringing the Brijuni Statement to completion.

A copy of the Brijuni Statement is available on the CEELI Institute website at www.ceeliinstitute.org, and we will be printing hard copy versions for distribution to the participating courts. The original, signed copies of the Brijuni Statement will continue to be preserved and maintained by the Supreme Court of Croatia.

November sees Multiple Intensive Anti-Corruption Training Programs at the Institute

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Anti-Corruption 2Due to high demand, the CEELI Institute conducted a second session of our highly acclaimed training program on “Investigating and Prosecuting Official Corruption” at the Villa Grebovka, in early November. This session again brought together a highly experienced faculty line-up consisting of some of the world’s most experienced anti-corruption prosecutors, forensic accountants, and practitioners.

The Institute also conducted a second, similar program later in November, at the special request of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The Institute’s Anti-Corruption curriculum has had outstanding student feedback, and is designed to provide participants with a comprehensive framework for investigating and prosecuting official corruption. The Institute’s efforts to provide high quality anti-corruption training continue to draw demand, especially as official corruption has emerged as one of the most prevalent and pernicious threats to the rule of law around the world. November’s programs brought together prosecutors and investigators from Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Ukraine, and Singapore, as well as a number of observers, including members of the Czech anti-corruption police, the OSCE, and the US Department of Justice.

The CEELI Institute puts great emphasis on designing and conducting programs that use case-based, interactive curricula. CEELI Institute programs engage participants in the actual process of assembling and pursuing a procurement fraud case. Using practical case scenarios as a learning tool demands that participants take an active role in the workshop. With each session, participants are presented with additional facts and legal obstacles to confront and overcome as the fact pattern becomes more complicated. Participants start with a few red flags, indicating a possible case involving corrupt activities. They work in small groups to pursue their investigation. The case studies are designed to walk participants through all aspects of an investigation – initial allegations or suspicions, preliminary inquiries, development of an investigation plan, collection and analysis of documentary materials, forensic accounting analysis, interviews of witnesses and targets, and preparation for trial or other disposition. The use of a case scenario as a teaching tool allows the participants to form close bonds as the training progresses, challenging their intellect and expanding their skills and knowledge base as they are exposed to new approaches in the investigation and prosecution of complex high level corruption cases. The case scenario is supported by relevant faculty presentations on key topics. Our highly experienced faculty provide mentoring to the small groups, as well as one-on-one mentoring throughout the program.

Strengthening Government Accountability in Ukraine

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UkraineIn September, the CEELI Institute worked together with a Ukrainian civil society organization (The Kyiv based Center for Civil Liberties) to train a network of Ukrainian citizens engaged in monitoring the conduct of law enforcement agencies, courts, and local government throughout the country. The project, named “OZONE” to signify its aim of promoting transparency, brought together regional leaders from across Ukraine to study best practices for projects promoting government accountability. The program focused particularly on communication strategies, including the development of useful and tangible reports as part of an accountability campaign, and effective communication of their efforts with the public and media. Participants examined other successful public monitoring campaigns, including a similar high profile court monitoring project in Georgia that has been run successfully for the past 7 years.

Our partner, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), is itself a grass root organization which came to the forefront of Ukrainian civil society for their work during the Maidan uprisings of 2013-14. The CCL runs a number of human rights projects, including the pursuit of justice for those killed and injured in Maidan.
The OZONE network started originally as a public control tool to monitor police conduct during peaceful assemblies and to monitor court sessions related to the Maidan demonstrations; it has since expanded nationwide.

We believe that there is outstanding capacity and expertise among Ukrainian civil society, and that constructive citizen involvement is needed, especially in this phase of the difficult political and economic transition that Ukraine is undertaking.

Human Rights Lawyers’ Sabbatical Program

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RespiteWith a generous donation from the director of the Oak Foundation’s international human rights program, the CEELI Institute has completed the renovation and furnishing of a one-bedroom flat at the Institute, which is dedicated for use by participants of a new respite and sabbatical program for human rights lawyers working under stressful and challenging conditions. Our program is designed to help mitigate the damaging effect of the severe stress and untenable workloads carried by many among the community of human rights lawyers. Often working in hostile and authoritarian environments, these lawyers work tirelessly to defend their clients – often at great personal risk and risk to their families.

Depending on the length of their stay, participants are encouraged to write and publish white papers on the legal issues they address that might serve as policy briefing tools for international counterparts and contribute to the body of knowledge for law practitioners in areas of human rights defense.

CEELI invites referrals from peers and colleagues to nominate lawyers working on difficult cases of human rights abuse, and those defending NGOs and civil society activists for short-to-medium term stays of up to three months. The specifics of each sabbatical are tailored to the individual needs of the participating lawyers. This year, CEELI has welcomed three participants on this respite program, and we look forward to hosting several more in the coming year.

If you would like to support this program, or would like more information, please contact Jennifer Gaspar at jgaspar@ceeli-inst.org

Promoting Legal Skills Training for Independent Burmese Lawyers

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The CEEBurma 044LI Institute, in partnership with Czech NGO Burma Center Prague, is again preparing to deliver another series of legal skills training sessions for independent Burmese lawyers, to be held this month in two regional Burmese cities. The trainings are delivered as part of a long-term cooperation agreement with the Myanmar Lawyers Network (MLN), an organization of independent Burmese lawyers active in pro bono defense of politically prosecuted citizens and vulnerable populations. U.S. Judge Christopher Whitten and Polish law professor Marta Skrodzka will lead the training, which is focused on building practical advocacy skills.  The program will also address the role and experience of lawyers in a society transitioning from a totalitarian regime to democracy.

The training sessions predominantly target the younger members of the network, especially in the regions outside of the two main cities of Yangon and Mandalay. Their main focus is on advocacy skills in a very practical hands-on setting. The program, funded by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also focuses on experience from the transformation of the legal environment in Central Europe. In addition, the CEELI Institute also uses this project as a mechanism to provide traini-the-trainer support to selected network lawyers who will assume more responsibility in delivering training projects for their organization. Not least, the CEELI Institute and Burma Center Prague also continues its long-term institutional support and cooperation with the MLN leadership, a group of veteran Burmese lawyers who have fought for human rights in their country for the last four decades.

With the recent landslide election victory for Aung San Sui Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, the Burmese transition to genuine democracy continues; the process is far from done, but there is new hope that the investment of time and energy in the support and development of a cadre of principled lawyers providing willing to provide pro bono defense will be more important than ever.