In April 2018, the CEELI Institute resumed a program in partnership with the Swedish-based International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), focused on offering 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.
In April 2018, the Institute convened a 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. The special focus of this session was on constitutional issues related to the judiciary. 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).