Promoting Judicial Accountability in Central Europe


12524251_1000746486678658_7769393494797001733_nThe CEELI Institute recently completed its partnership with the Polish Institute for Law and Society (INPRIS) on a project to promote better interaction between civil society and the judiciary in central and southeastern Europe. The project was funded by the International Visegrad Fund and the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the Visegrad Group, or V-4, consists of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia).

The project, entitled “NGOs and the Judiciary – Watchdog Activities, Interactions, Collaboration, and Communication”, aimed to gather and share good practices designed to ensure more effective cooperation between NGOs and the judiciary, especially in cases where civil society and NGO projects involve civic monitoring of judiciary. The ultimate goal is to encourage the judiciary to view such monitoring in a positive and constructive light, and recognize that it is a useful tool for improving the overall performance and public credibility of the judiciary. The project was also designed to promote sharing of best practices from central Europe with the countries of the western Balkan region, with the goal of inspiring and better equipping civil society in the western Balkans to take a strategic approach in interacting with and monitoring the judiciary. Six partner organizations from V-4 and Balkan countries participated in the project.

Within the project, the CEELI Institute focused on development of the Czech experience in most effectively monitoring the judiciary, with identification of best practices used by civil society in the Czech Republic. In December 2015, all participating partners met in Warsaw, Poland to finalize the country reports and to discuss in person the final recommendations to judiciary, NGOs, and government, which is one of the outcomes of the project. The final recommendations were published by INPRIS in March 2016. The recommendations will also be useful in development of future curriculum on civic monitoring of the judiciary, and in promoting other forms of cooperation between civil society and the judiciary.

Trial Skills and Legal Transformation Trainings in Burma


2016-05-28 at 11-06-59The CEELI Institute, together with Burma Center Prague (BCP), continues its effort to train young lawyers in Burma, under the auspices of the Myanmar Lawyers Network.  The most recent sessions were delivered in May 2016.  The most recent programs took place among a dramatically changing political landscape following the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy in November 2015, which in turn began paving the way for democracy and the return to power of iconic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

In addition to the continuing focus on building practical trial skills, the trainings focused on aspects of political and legal transformation (an issue that is at last possible to address entirely openly in the country) as well as the role of lawyers in drafting new legislation. The legislative process will be an important topic in the coming years as the country begins to grapple with its outdated and repressive laws inherited from its years of colonial and military rule.

The May 2016 trainings were carried out in the regional cities of Pyay and Pyapon, in line with our objective of providing training opportunities to lawyers outside of the main cities, and to targeting the younger, less-experienced members of the network. The trainings were led by Tomáš Vachuda, a veteran Czech lawyer and the Vice-Dean of the Anglo-American University in Prague, who was himself active during the years of substantial legislative changes in Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s. The hands-on practical training on trial skills was led by Allen Snyder, Professor at the University of San Diego, a long-time trainer and board member of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). The practical exercises were based on a mock case and focused on providing young lawyers with skills necessary for preparing and arguing their cases in court. The program provided basic advocacy skills for organizing and preparing a case file, collecting and presenting evidence, and effectively presenting the case to the judge in a courtroom setting.

Letter from the Executive Director


Lehmann LetterThis April marked my second anniversary as the Executive Director of the CEELI Institute. Looking back over the past two years, I am highly gratified by the growth and expansion of the Institute. We continue to blaze new trails; with every new day, we are expanding our programs and curricula, working with new partners, and reaching new audiences. The need for the programs offered by the CEELI Institute is greater than ever, and we continue to try to rise to the new challenges that are being posed to the Rule of Law in this region and beyond.

Last year we were able to conduct over 50 individual programs, both here in Prague at the Villa Grébovka and abroad in Tunisia, Burma, and Croatia. We had a total of over 1,100 participants at these events. A week rarely goes by without some kind of event happening here in Prague, and on our busiest days we may have up to three programs running simultaneously. It is wonderful to see the Villa being fully utilized, pulsing with life and activity.

We have assembled an amazing international team here- we are now up to 14 full and part time employees, augmented by our wonderful interns, and by the catering, security, and cleaning teams that keep the Villa Grébovka running smoothly and efficiently.

We are gratified by the continued and ongoing support from our funders, including the US Department of State and the Czech Foreign Ministry. The recent renewals of many of our existing grants has been a strong vote of confidence in the quality of the programs we deliver. The scope of our funders also continues to expand: in the past year we have been privileged to be able to implement programs on behalf of new partners, including the OSCE, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Bar Association.

If you haven’t recently visited Prague, or haven’t yet checked out our latest Annual Report, it might be time to return! We are changing and growing every day, and we invite you to be a part of our amazing transformation.

Christopher Lehmann
Executive Director

Please Join us for the CEELI Institute Annual Meeting June 26-27, 2016


Please join us in Prague on June 26-27 for the CEELI Institute 2016 Annual Meeting.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0052.JPGOur theme this year will focus on one of the biggest challenges now facing the international development community: effective strategies for delivering Rule of Law developmental assistance in increasingly difficult political environments. We have an exciting line up of panelists, drawn from the international development community, and from the ranks of those currently struggling on the front lines to keep the Rule of Law alive under repressive conditions.

As always, we expect this year’s meeting to bring together an exciting mix of activists, academicians, diplomats, government officials and experts, as well as our board members, partners, and friends. The gathering allows us the opportunity to take an intensive look at our programs, as well as hold frank discussions on the critical challenges facing our region as it struggles with war, repression, corruption, and the rise of illiberal regimes which question the value of democratic transitions.

All events will be held at the Institute, at the Villa Grébovka, in Prague. Registration is free. We also have limited accommodations for up to 38 guests at the Villa, or can make recommendations for comfortable accommodation at a variety of nearby hotels.

Registration is now open at:

Password for the registration page: prague_2016

Respite Program for Human Rights Defenders at the Villa Grebovka


IMG_4379The CEELI Institute continues to expand its successful program to provide respite stays for human rights defenders working under pressure and in extreme situations. Since initiating the project in summer 2015, the Institute has now hosted seven of these brave and inspiring human rights attorneys through the program. Respite stay participants, to date, have worked in areas of anti-torture litigation, access to information, NGO defense, children’s rights, and freedom of expression. Each participant creates his or her own program based on their interests and amount of time they will spend at the Institute. Examples of past projects have included learning documentary film making skills (for use in documenting and filming torture victim testimonies), providing interviews with international media on their work, and improving legal English. Respite participants also frequently participate in ongoing programs at the Institute. The participants reside at CEELI Institute facilities in Prague, near the Villa Grébovka. Participants have a safe, peaceful and comfortable space in which to work during their stay. Recognizing the important role that family plays in the well-being of human rights defenders, CEELI is also able to make accommodations for sabbatical participants to bring along partners and children. We look forward to continuing this novel and innovative program and to welcoming more of these brave people to CEELI this year!