CEELI Launches New Initiative to Support Anti-Corruption Activists


The CEELI Institute is delighted to be able to announce the launch of a new initiative to support civil society organizations, journalists and lawyers striving for greater public accountability and transparency in Central and Eastern Europe.  The project is supported by a grant from the US Department of State.  It will allow us to provide training, assistance and guidance to anti-corruption civic activists from across the region as they work to access publicly available government information, thereby highlighting and exposing official corruption.  The project will include civil society participants from the Visegrad, Baltic and Balkan regions, as well as the Eastern Partnership countries.

Official corruption is often perceived as a major factor in undermining public trust in democracy and the rule of law; public corruption strengthens oligarchies and autocracies, bolsters populist responses, undermines the rule of law and deteriorates state institutions, and weakens legal and judicial systems. This project will tackle the problem from two angles.  First, we will work to train journalists, civic advocates, lawyers and CSOs on methods of conducting research about governmental activities, on researching and collecting publicly available data and on using that data in the design of advocacy efforts aimed at promoting public accountability, including public interest litigation. Second, because successful efforts by activists often draw retaliation from powerful public officials or from the oligarchs, we will also work to equip lawyers to effectively represent bloggers, activists and investigative journalists who are exposing corruption, and who are attacked as a result of their efforts.

CEELI Launches New Judicial Tool


The CEELI Institute is delighted to announce its newest judicial reference tool, The Addendum to the Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of the Judiciary: A Thematic Compilation of International and National Jurisprudence. This document will now join the original Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of the Judiciary: The Thematic Compilation of International Standards, Policies and Best Practices as an important reference tool for judges, legislators, government officials and legal scholars. Both documents are hosted on the CEELI Institute web site, where they are available for download.

The Addendum follows the same approach as the original Manual. Whereas the original Manual focused on international instruments relevant to issues of judicial independence, integrity, accountability and function, the Addendum references similarly relevant international jurisprudence. The working group judges continued their methodological approach of cataloging the jurisprudence according to well defined thematic areas. Like the Manual, the Addendum will provides an easy to use tool for judges, legislators, policy makers and legal professionals needing quick reference guidance on how particular relevant issues have been addressed by relevant international tribunals. Both reference documents are of particular use in researching substantive legal support for issues related to the status, work, rights, and responsibilities of judges. This first version of the Addendum has focused specifically on the CODICES of the Venice Commission, but future revisions will incorporate jurisprudence from other relevant international, European and national judicial institutions.

Both the Addendum and the original Manual provide effective solutions for national systems. The Manual, to date, has proved highly useful in societies still undergoing transitions, where the judiciaries are still struggling to assert and establish their full independence, where the laws relevant to the conduct of the judiciaries are still undergoing flux, and where the standards for conduct of the judiciary are not firmly established or clarified. We expect the Addendum to serve the same purpose.

The Addendum, like the Manual was produced by a working group of judges participating in the CEELI Institute’s Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network, a project now in its sixth year of operation. That Network is comprised of some of the best and brightest rising judges from eighteen countries in the region who have come together to share best practices on issues of judicial independence, integrity, accountability, and court management. The Addendum represents an extraordinary commitment of time and effort by the working group judges. They undertook extensive independent research and editing, coming together periodically at the Institute to coordinate and collaborate on their work. We are deeply indebted to them for their commitment, skill, and insight both in the conceptualization and actualization of this project.

This project has been made possible through the generous support of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) at the U.S. Department of State.

Advising Burmese MPs on legislative reform


Building on our four-year track record of working with human rights lawyers in Burma, the CEELI Institute has now expanded our efforts in Burma to include support for members of the Burmese Parliament who are working to reform a range of outdated or repressive legislation. Many of these MPs are former dissidents and political prisoners who are now adjusting to new roles as legislators and drafters. Progress in changing these laws and paving the way for a genuine democracy is critical to securing democratic changes in Burma.  The MPs are also increasingly aware that the results of the next general election in 2020 will be partly dependent on success in reforming repressive laws.

This project has been a logical outgrowth of our work with the human rights legal community in Burma, and our long term partnership with the Burma Center Prague (BCP).  It was through our well-established contacts with senior human rights lawyers, that the CEELI Institute and BCP were requested to initiate this effort, as lawyers we have worked with now have moved from a position of outsiders and political prisoners into positions within the legislature.  The transition is an important, but challenging one for them. The latest series of roundtables, organized by CEELI and BCP this month (December 2017) in Burma, covers strategies for a successful and efficient drafting of new laws, including cooperation with independent lawyers associations as a source of expertise and legal drafts.

This project has been possible through the ongoing support of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and more recently through additional support provided by the British Embassy in Yangon.

CEELI at Forum 2000


15th Forum 2000 Conference, October 9–11, 2011, Prague

Forum 2000 (www.forum2000.cz) is an annual convocation in Prague, originally founded by Václav Havel, dedicated to supporting the values of democracy and respect for human rights. The Forum provides a platform for global leaders to openly debate and share thoughts on this critical issue. This year, CEELI again joined in Forum 2000’s Festival of Democracy, hosting a panel entitled “Unwinding: Rule of Law Reform in Europe Under Pressure.”  The CEELI Institute panel addressed the uneven road in transformation of post-communist countries into fully functioning and healthy democracies. With the re-emergence of political nationalism and authoritarian instincts, pro-democratic cooperation across borders is of utmost importance. This session looked at current developments as well as possible strategies of international efforts aimed at advancing the rule of law amid the current volatility. Speakers included Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the acclaimed Polish newspaper, Gazeta WyborczaMykhailo Zhernakov, a former judge, and Director of the DeJuRe Foundation (Ukraine); Jeremy Druker, Executive Director of Transitions Online (Czech Republic) and Christopher Lehmann, Executive Director, the CEELI Institute. 

The CEELI Judicial Exchange touches base in India


The CEELI Institute is pleased to initiate a multi-year partnership with the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal, India, and the U.S. Federal Judicial Center, which will promote a series of exchanges between U.S. and Indian judges.  This effort, generously supported by the US Department of State’s Counterterrorism Bureau, will focus particularly on judges who are responsible for adjudicating complex cases involving terrorism and national security crimes. As is on our past work on this subject matter with judges from a variety of backgrounds, including the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa, the Institute will again make particular use of relevant good practice documents generated by the 30-member Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF), a body which includes both India and the United States (www.thegctf.org).  Of particular relevance for framing the discussions in this effort is the Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses, a Good Practice document drafted by the GCTF with extensive international input, and reflecting relevant international standards.  The CEELI Institute is proud to have participated in the drafting of the Hague Memorandum, which was approved in plenary by the GCTF in 2015. 

The Initial exchanges under this project between Indian and American judges are now scheduled for late October 2017 in Bhopal, at the Academy, and early 2018 in Washington, at the Federal Judicial Center.  As a precursor to this effort, CEELI Institute staff accompanied Judge John Tunheim, Chief Judge of the District of Minnesota, to India in April of this year for meetings with the leadership and faculty of the Indian National Judicial Academy. Over the course of 3-days, the Institute representatives outlined plans for the exchange, toured the NJA facilities, and met with key Indian partners in both Bhopal and New Delhi.  

This project reflects the CEELI Institute’s ongoing commitment to work with judges in countries on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. To date, our previous efforts have engaged judges from the Western Balkans, as well as in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Over the course of the past two years, the CEELI Institute has successfully organized four such counterterrorism conferences, with a fifth due to take place in Malta on October 11-13 of this year.  This work has resulted in the Institute amassing a diverse and talented pool of counterterrorism experts who frequently act as program faculty.