In February, the CEELI Institute staff was delighted to welcome the leadership of the highly respected Italian organization, the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, for in-depth meetings on future program collaboration and engagement. The CEELI Institute greatly values our increasing roster of programmatic partnerships with institutions across Europe. These collaborations are important in helping us to expand both the quality and scope of our programs. Institutional partnerships allow the participating organizations to tap into a deeper pool of experts, a greater diversity of participants and an increased level of substantive expertise. The staff collaboration and interactions that accompany partnerships encourage consideration of different perspectives and facilitate creative thinking about program design and delivery. Other recent joint efforts have involved programs organized in partnerships with the Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, based in Valletta, Malta, and the Judicial Studies Institute, at Masaryk University, in Brno, Czech Republic.
In January, the CEELI Institute hosted the latest meeting of our Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network, comprised of some of the best and brightest young judges from eighteen countries in the region who have come together to share their best practices on issues of judicial independence, integrity, and accountability. This project is funded through a generous ongoing grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (NL). The program focused on supporting judicial efforts to combat corruption both within and without the profession. In addition to examining issues of transparency in the conduct of the judicial profession, participating judges also examined issues related to the adjudication of corruption cases, including the unique evidentiary issues presented in such cases and the need for judges to understand complex financial documents and testimony by experts versed in forensic accounting techniques. The judges also used the meeting as an opportunity to continue updates to Network‘s The Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice: A Thematic Compilation of International Standards, Policies and Best Practices. The Manual represents a systematic effort to survey relevant international standards applicable to the judiciary, and is now in wide use by courts across the region. The Manual provides easily accessible, substantive legal support for issues related to the status, work, rights, and responsibilities of judges. It has proved useful to judges who are pushing back against governmental infringements on their functions.
The CEELI Institute is pleased to report that it’s Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice continues to be put to good use by judicial practitioners across the region. Most recently, our colleagues in the Republic of Georgia report that the Manual was used extensively by the High Council of Justice in the process of drafting Judicial Strategy for Georgia for 2017-2021. They note that the Manual was one of the guiding documents used in determining the main directions of the judicial strategy and the content of the strategy‘s sub-chapters. As one of the judges noted, the drafters and researchers appreciated the flexibility of the manual and the availability of a keyword system that facilitated the research. The CEELI Manual represents a systematic effort to survey relevant international standards applicable to the judiciary, and provides easily accessible, substantive legal support for issues related to the status, work, rights, and responsibilities of judges.
The CEELI Institute is delighted to be able to announce the continuation of its groundbreaking program bringing together young lawyers from the Middle East to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role that international law can play in its resolution. This program has been generously supported by the International Bar Association for a second year. The program extension will allow us to continue to bring together the diverse group of young lawyers on a quarterly basis at the Institute in Prague, during which participants are able to speak honestly, exchange views, examine applicable principles of international law, and jointly explore difficult, emotional issues affecting Israel and Palestine. This program was highlighted last year at the IBA’s annual Rule of Law Forum, in Washington, for an audience of over 300 people, where the young lawyers themselves spoke of the unusual nature of the project and their personal experiences as participants in this kind of dialogue.
The Israeli, Arab, and American mentors who conceived, organized, and facilitated this project will continue to facilitate it, augmented by a roster of experienced former diplomats and negotiators who have dealt with the complex issues that plague the region. We expect the group to continue to address how international law can help lead to potential solutions and compromises, which could bring about change in one of the most persistent conflicts and gravest threats to the rule of law in the world.
In March, the CEELI Institute continued its ongoing efforts to support judges in countries on the front lines in the fight against terrorism, with support from the US Department of State’s Counterterrorism Bureau. The most recent program was designed to support judges from the Western Balkans and brought together judges and prosecutors from seven Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. These countries continue to be on the front line of European counterterrorism threats, as they sit directly abreast of the main transit routes for Syrian and other refugees, and see first-hand the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters. The intensive three-day exchange focused on useful practices for judges adjudicating cases involving terrorism and other national security issues, with special reference to The Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses, a Good Practice document based on relevant international guidance and developed under the auspices of the 30-nation Global Counter Terrorism Forum (www.thegctf.org).
The March program was held in Prague, and we again welcomed a representative from the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (www.theiij.org), a valuable CEELI partner on our counterterrorism programming efforts. Judges from the United States and Germany with specialized experience in counterterrorism adjudication facilitated highly interactive exchanges, using firsthand experiences, case studies, and hypothetical problems to engage the assembled group and drive the conversation. Valuable regional insights were provided by a Brussels-based counterterrorism expert from Slovenia. Additional contributions were provided by the US Department of Justice’s Resident Legal Advisors from Turkey and the US European Command (Stuttgart), both career prosecutors.
The CEELI Institute’s judicial counterterrorism efforts represent a unique opportunity to work directly with judges who are struggling to handle terrorism cases in a region plagued by new threats and challenges. These judges are often grappling with issues of first impression involving new laws, new kinds of cases and evidence, new factual scenarios and new sentencing challenges. This program provided them an important opportunity to share experiences and good practices in addressing these key issues. The judges were highly motivated and engaged.
The next stage of this project will involve a similar program for judges in the Middle East/North Africa region, to be held in fall 2017. We are also working on developing a case management tool/checklist we hope will serve as a universally applicable tool for judges who will be overseeing complicated terrorism cases in the future.