Providing Lifelines for Syrian Judges in Exile

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The CEELI Institute is partnering with the Swedish-based International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) to begin programs that will offer a professional lifeline to Syrian judges who are now in exile in Turkey but who hold on to the hope of one day returning to their country to rebuild the justice system.  Many of the exiled judges remain actively involved with international organizations that are working with refugees in Turkey, for example, by assisting with efforts to maintain basic public records of births, death, and marriages, in the absence of any formal mechanism for recording such crucial life events.  All of these Syrian judges are looking ahead to possible scenarios that might occur in Syria after the conflict ends.   

The Institute convened the initial program in Gaziantep, Turkey, to facilitate discussions among the judges and to explore core issues related to their role in the emerging post conflict society; where both the rule of law and democratic values will not be firmly established.  Our goal is to promote discussion and engagement on the challenges Syrian judges face, and on the ways in which the judges can begin to prepare for their roles in an immediate post-conflict environment. The roundtable allowed us to frame priorities for further programmatic efforts, as we hope to continue and expand this work.  

At present, the Syrian judges feel cut off and removed from the larger world.  These efforts are intended to support their morale, and to also provide opportunities to engage with our networks of judges from other countries that have emerged from conflicts.  The CEELI Institute roundtable explored challenges and scenarios that took place in other countries following an armed conflict (including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia), and the difficult work ahead, including reconstructing land and personal registries, reestablishing public administration, and regaining public trust in the judiciary. Ultimately, the success of post conflict processes in Syria will depend on the expertise and readiness of Syrian judges as actors in this effort. The effort is funded by the Swedish International Development Administration (SIDA). 

Judges and the Media

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pep_7712-minAn increasingly important aspect of the CEELI Institute’s continuing engagement with judiciaries across the region involves exploration of the relationships between the judiciary and the media. Discussions and materials addressing this topic is in high demand among judges who are faced with increasing media pressures, especially while handling political sensitive cases and high level corruption cases. Judges must also increasingly negotiate the potential pitfalls surrounding the use of social media platforms. Judges are concerned about their rights to privacy in an age of increasing media attention, and are also unclear on where the boundaries should be set in dealing with the press. They are also challenged in balancing the public’s interest against the rights of the parties before the court. The CEELI Institute has been honored to work with an increasingly diverse cadre of experts in this field, to explore these critical issues. We also work to foster communication skills of courts and judges in dealing with the public, and in responding to outside scrutiny. These issues are increasingly incorporated into many of the judicial programs now organized by the Institute.