The CEELI Institute is currently conducting training for volunteers from the Ukrainian public monitoring group, OZON. OZON’s goal is to foster more open, accountable and transparent government. As part of their program at CEELI, OZON monitors are discussing differences between Russian and Ukrainian standards of access to government information, the role of public monitoring with respect to access to information and the legal process of requesting information and court processes for defending rights to information. Among other activities, OZON plans to underake monitoring of court proceedings; securing open access to information on court proceedings in Ukraine and monitoring court information is a critically important part of overall efforts underway to address corruption in Ukraine.
The CEELI Institute recently started the second phase of its judicial program in Tunisia, designed to work with a select group of judges, on an effort to build and promote public trust in the judiciary. In partnership with the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, and in cooperation with the Swedish–based International Legal Assistance Consortium, the initial session brought together twelve highly experienced Tunisian judges who have previously worked with CEELI on other judicial projects. The program addresses problems created for judges in Tunisia by the continuing lack of public trust in state institutions, a lingering legacy left of the Ben Ali era. The topic was identified by the judges themselves, as well as by other relevant stakeholders, during our needs assessment following the initial phase of the project. Judges often have difficulty dealing with the intense media scrutiny, which distorts the picture of what is really going on in the courtroom. The program aims to encourage the judges to develop tools to effectively communicate and interact with both the public and the media. Participating judges are provided with an opportunity to discuss relevant issues in a constructive setting among themselves as well as with representatives of other sectors, including the non-governmental sector and media. Four such sessions will be organized in spring 2016, bringing together close to 50 Tunisian judges from various regions of the country.
In February, in partnership with the Malta-based International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) and with funding from the US State Department, the CEELI Institute initiated a multi-year program working with judges from the western Balkan region who must handle complex cases involving issues of terrorism, national security, and the transit of foreign fighters. In particular, the program will promote understanding and use of relevant international guidance for judges on these matters, including particularly the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Hague Memorandum Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses.
In light of the increased terrorism across Europe, the vast transit of refugees to Europe from Syria, and the particular burdens this puts on the Balkan countries, the issues encompassed by the GCTF Good Practice documents are more important than ever. The continuing civil war in Syria and other conflicts in the region put special burdens on the Balkans, with increasing numbers of foreign terrorist fighters either leaving their native Balkan homes to go fight abroad and then returning, or foreign fighters entering the Balkans under the guise of being refugees. In either case, judges across the region need to be trained and prepared to handle cases involving both domestic terrorism and the new phenomenon presented by foreign fighters.
A preliminary strategy session was held at the Institute in early February, and brought together judges from five of the affected Balkan countries, along with a U.S. judge, highly experienced counterterrorism experts, CEELI Institute and IIJ staff. The Institute was delighted to welcome back Judge John R. Tunheim, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and a veteran faculty member of some of our most prominent programs and a wealth of knowledge on the Balkan region, to participate in and lead several segments of the meeting. Discussions surrounded the current experiences and capacity of the judiciaries across the Balkans in dealing with cases involving terrorism, including examination of particular cases handled to date by courts in the region. The two-day session also involved an in-depth discussion of key GCTF Good Practices, and their relevance to the work of the judges in the region, as they face increasing numbers of such cases.
The Institute is now in the process of preparing more comprehensive sessions for a larger group of judges from across the region, to explore the issues involved in handling terrorism and foreign fighter cases in greater depth. At least twenty judges from six countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia – will be selected by their high courts or court presidents to participate in the first training session in early summer of this year.
On February 15-17, we hosted a group of young members of the OZON public monitoring network. The OZON, founded with the Kiev-based NGO Center for Civil Liberties, is a network of volunteers from various regions of the country focusing on monitoring peaceful assemblies and police conduct at them, court hearings and local authorities. This workshop focused in particular on international standards of assemblies and access to public information, as well as practical experience with accessing public information with local authorities in the Czech Republic, covered by veteran Czech expert on transparency, activist and journalist Oldřich Kužílek. The workshop was a follow-up to a session held at the CEELI Institute in September 2015.
The CEELI Institute was delighted to welcome former Jordanian Prime Minister, Dr. Abdelsalam al-Majali, who spoke at length on his long experiences in the Arab-Israeli peace processes. Dr. al-Majali offered valuable insights into the process of negotiation, the barriers negotiators face, how compromises can be reached, and how negotiators can successfully avoid impasse and stalemates. He offered important insights into how negotiations can successfully be used to resolve pressing political issues of our day.
Dr. al-Majali was joined at the Institute by David Rivkin, the President of the International Bar Association, who led a discussion on the successful Israeli-Egyptian Taba border arbitrations. Mr. Rivkin is a partner at the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimption, and a world-renowned expert in international arbitration.