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.

Supporting International Human Rights Standards, Here at Home in Central Europe

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Czech Human RightsThe CEELI Institute was delighted to host and cosponsor a conference on International Human Rights Obligations of Post-Communist Countries, in partnership with the Law Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno and the Czech Institute for European and Comparative Law, held at the Institute in October. The conference was attended by almost 100 professional participants from across the Czech Republic, and focused particularly on recent research by Masaryk University scholars on the process of signing and ratification of international human rights conventions by Central and Eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Aspects of the Czech transition to democracy have recently been under siege by some sectors of the Czech political spectrum. This conference highlighted the Czech Republic’s role in ascribing to human rights principles, and focused on the conditions under which the treaties are created and ratified, with an aim to bring academics and practitioners together with aim of promoting professional exchange across the legal community. Conference participants thus included members of academia, as well as representatives of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, other high courts, as well as professionals from various government bodies.

This program reflects the broad engagement by the CEELI Institute with Czech legal institutions.