Impact and Achievements
Key Achievements – Africa Programming
Defender Resource Center
- Defender Resource Center (DRC) set up, furnished and equipped with basic IT equipment in Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura.
- A Fellow and Country Manager, two Legal Fellows and a Project Assistant recruited and trained. DRC will provide a hub for lawyers in Burundi where they can access legal resources and discuss issues that pertain to the legal culture and criminal defense in Burundi.
- 6 human rights legal defense trainings held in Burundi. In 2008, 64 people trained. 46 people attended our trainings in 2009, 58 people were trained in 2010. The trainings included 75 lawyers, 24 police officers, 8 prosecutors, 10 prison officials, 20 judges and 31 others (academics, policymakers and civil society representatives).
- 1 criminal defense manual developed in French and distributed widely among the legal community.
- 7 Burundi-specific E-Learning training modules designed in French, including lessons on 1) Arrestation 2) Accès à la défense 3) Interrogatoire, 4) Prison, 5) Nullités, 6) Condamnation, 7) Etude de cas alternative
- IBJ-trained lawyers meet 69% of the IBJ general standards of good representation. In relation to torture, 100% of assessed lawyers are said to raise the question of inappropriate police practices when they first meet their client. 100% of assessed lawyers are said to consider filing pre-trial motions on behalf of their client to nullify the procedure when there is proof of illegally obtained evidence and involuntary statements or confessions made by the accused, which corresponds to a considerable increase from the 11% that did so in February 2010.
- 12.5% of the country’s lawyer population has joined IBJ as volunteers. IBJ has driven 25% of the country’s lawyer population to dedicate between half and three quarters of their legal practice to criminal law.
- Out of the total number of IBJ-trained lawyers surveyed in July 2010, 60% asserted that they have not been prevented from accessing their clients in custody. This 52 point improvement compared to baseline statistics displays the success of IBJ’s police trainings in creating a more favorable and cooperative environment for legal defense.
- 8 roundtables conducted with 168 attendees in both 2009 and 2010. This includes 42 lawyers, 22 magistrates and judges, 22 prosecutors, 35 police officials, 20 prison officials and 27 other actors of the justice system, including academics and representatives from the civil society.
- Resolute action was taken after the two roundtable discussions. Lawyers visited Bubanza and Gitega provincial prisons. By pointing out irregularities in certain cases and through increased collaboration with penitentiary officials, they managed to accomplish the release of 73 prisoners, mainly pre-trial detainees, although some were convicts.
Rights Awareness Campaigns
- 10,000 “Know Your Rights” posters developed and distributed, reaching an estimated 30,000 people.
- 12 street law campaigns held, educating 6115 people.
- 6 advisement of rights workshops conducted in prisons. 110 prisoners educated on their legal rights.
- After citizens were educated about their legal rights and handed copies of educational materials during several campaigns, 98% indicated the awareness of their right to legal representation and 86% their right to be free from torture, whereas before the campaigns, only 2% were aware of their right to a lawyer and 4% their right to be free from torture.
- Rural populations have a clearer idea of channels through which they can get legal assistance in case of conflict with the law and IBJ’s profile continues to rise (while mentioned in seventh position at the end of 2009, IBJ was mentioned fourth in a 2010 survey about leading legal assistance organizations in Burundi).
- As of August 2010, 9 national and local media have covered criminal justice issues and reported on IBJ’s work throughout the country. This corresponds to a 45% increase in the national and local coverage of issues pertaining to the rights of accused persons compared to 2009.
- 127 persons assisted by IBJ lawyers.
- As of August 2010, 33% of the cases handled by IBJ Legal Fellows and IBJ-trained lawyers were involving at-risk populations (including juveniles, old people, orphans, mentally-ill persons, members of ethnic minorities and detainees who had stayed in pre-trial detention for a long period of time).
- Tangible results were obtained in the targeted Bubanza province, where the Legal Fellow assisted 54 persons, equivalent to one quarter of the then-registered number of pre-trial detainees. As a result of constant lobbying by IBJ, Bubanza judges have started to systematically verify the validity of the warrant of arrest of detainees and urge prosecutors to bring detainees before them on a monthly basis to inform or confirm the status of their imprisonment.
MoUs and partnership
- International Bridges to Justice has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Burundi Bar Association (l’Ordre des Avocats du Burundi) and one with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), a local human rights NGO.
- IBJ has established a Country Advisory Council (CAC), which includes Isidore Rufyikiri (President of the Bar Association), Pasteur Nzinahora (Former President of the Supreme Court of Burundi and Former Burundian Ambassador to France), Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, (President of prominent human rights NGO, APRODH).
- The CAC members bring years of experience in the national and international sphere and an extensive network of contacts within the judicial system.
- On March 24th 2010, the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, issued a decree freeing all prisoners guilty of non-violent crimes that had been sentenced to five years or less, and, in most cases, life imprisonment was commuted to twenty years. This announcement came after IBJ conducted four roundtables on prison overcrowding and pre-trial detention with key public and justice officials, including a two-day roundtable forum discussion on February 24th 2010 in Rumonge where prison directors, court presidents, a police commissioner and lawyers discussed ways to curb prison overcrowding and specifically recommended a mass release of prisoners as a way to address prison congestion. IBJ’s slogan “Freedom is the rule, detention is the exception” has become a new rallying cry to reform Burundi’s criminal justice system.
- There seems to be a positive shift in the attitude on pre-trial detention and early access to counsel by the accused of many justice sector officials that were involved with IBJ. This can also be seen among judges that have adopted a tougher stance against torture as an investigative tool.
- After the street campaigns, people were eager to share their new-found rights. Interviewed citizens indicated that they would communicate these lessons to their family, neighbors and other community members, thus at least tripling the reach of the advisement of rights workshops.
- The enactment and promulgation of the new penal code which punishes acts of torture with severe sentences that cannot be commuted into lower punishments and cannot be pardoned by the executive power has caused a steady decrease in the use of torture. IBJ has actively contributed to the dissemination of physical copies of the revised penal code, particularly for provincial judges, prosecutors and public officials, at the 2009 trainings and activities followed by it.
Defender Resource Center
- One DRC set up in central Kigali. A Fellow and Country Manager and DRC Coordinator hired and trained.
- A core team of volunteer lawyers established to take pro-bono cases throughout the country.
- A Criminal Defense Task Force of lawyers established to propose concrete solutions to improve the administration of criminal justice in their country. Two of the members of the taskforce have volunteered to be delegates to liaise between the Task Force members and the DRC.
- Two legal defense trainings conducted, 81 lawyers trained in the first training in 2009 and 80 lawyers trained in the second training in 2010.
- 1 criminal defense manual has been developed in French and English.
- 6 Rwanda-specific E-Learning training modules developed including lessons on: 1) Arrest; 2) The Right to Legal Representation; 3) The Interrogation; 4) Pre-trial Detention; 5) The Legal Proceedings; and 6) Sentencing.
- 25% of the country’s lawyers have been trained by IBJ.
- Trainings have improved lawyers’ ability to deal with pretrial detention and the rights of the accused during detention by urging them to come up with their own strategies to tackle the critical issue of illegal detention in Rwanda. Additionally, lawyers were trained on cross-examination and other common law adversarial trial techniques used in East African countries.
- The average performance of Rwandan lawyers has risen through a unique combination of practical skills and values, through a collaborative, engaging and modern training; this shows the need for continuous efforts by IBJ to commit to developments of legal defense in Rwanda.
- Foundation for leadership among defense lawyers within the criminal justice system has been laid through trainings and establishment of the Criminal Defense Task Force.
- Two roundtable discussions held with lawyers from the Criminal Defense Task Force attended by 39 lawyers.
- Increased collegiality and momentum among lawyers and as a result more cases taken up without financial compensation, which furthers the pro-bono culture in Rwanda.
- As a result of the growing pro-bono culture, 60 cases have been taken up on a totally voluntary basis.
Rights Awareness Campaigns
- 8 radio campaigns conducted
- 7,000 “Know Your Rights” posters produced and distributed across the country, reaching out to an estimated number of 30,000 rural individuals.
- Increased legal awareness of ordinary people across the country. The radio shows were listened to by 100,000 individuals per broadcast on average. Dozens of SMS and phone calls were received per show on average, demonstrating ordinary citizens’ interest in their legal rights.
- IBJ now has a core group of 29 committed Rwandan lawyers that have joined the Criminal Defense Task Force and are actively taking up pro-bono cases.
- IBJ Rwanda has provided assistance to 140 detainees. 60 of these cases were taken up by members of the Task Force on a totally pro-bono basis.
- Criminal legal aid has been mapped across the country as a handful of provincial lawyers have taken pro-bono cases on IBJ’s behalf. All five provinces have been reached through legal assistance efforts by IBJ lawyers and volunteers.
- IBJ has succeeded in bringing to light the backlog in Rwandan courts and the overcrowding of prisons due to lengthy pre-trial detention rates and have successfully helped criminal defendants to have access to competent legal counsel and obtain reduced sentences. In 92% of the cases handled by IBJ, the accused has either been released or obtained a reduced sentence.
MoUs and partnerships
- IBJ has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kigali Bar Association (KBA) and with the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Rwanda.
- The Ministry of Justice has invited IBJ to contribute to the effort of building a decentralized legal aid system across the country.
- IBJ has developed a relationship with the government-sponsored Institute for Legal Practice and Development (ILPD) in Nyanza and is seeking ways to contribute to the development of a criminal defense curriculum to be integrated into the ILPD yearly training program and to transfer technical expertise to the ILPD.
- Two eminent representatives of the Rwandan legal community – Herbert Rubasha and Johnson Kabera – have joined IBJ Rwanda Country Advisory Council (CAC) on a voluntary basis.
- Their role is to support IBJ Fellow and Country Manager to spearhead a movement within the justice sector to protect and promote the rights of accused persons and to provide long-term vision, guidance and support for IBJ’s Rwanda program. Specifically, they will mentor the Fellow and Country Manager, get him access to important networks and key people, help him build and maintain critical partnerships, promote the work of IBJ in the country, support local fundraising efforts and help resolve local problems as they come up.
Defender Resource Center
- A fully-furnished and equipped DRC has been set up in Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare.
- The DRC has been stocked with more than 60 books on human rights and criminal law, freely available to lawyers.
- A Fellow and Country Manager, two Legal Fellows, and a Project Assistant have been recruited and trained.
- Increasing number of new lawyers have visited the DRC, joined the existing team of volunteer lawyers and started assisting vulnerable detainees. The IBJ volunteer lawyer team is now composed of 68 lawyers. This represents a 35% increase in volunteering since October 2009.
- As a result of the momentum of the training and other awareness activities sparked within the Harare legal community, 68 lawyers have volunteered and taken up criminal legal aid cases on our behalf.
- 3 legal defense trainings conducted. 60 lawyers trained in 2009 and 67 lawyers trained in 2010.
- Three handbooks developed with the Legal Resources Foundation: one defender handbook, one high court judges’ handbook, one magistrates’ handbook. Handbooks being distributed through the Law Society of Zimbabwe and Legal Resources Foundation: 120 copies of defenders’ handbook distributed at Summer School of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, 630 distributed in total. In addition to these handbooks, a community service guideline was also developed.
- 8 Zimbabwe-specific E-learning training courses including lessons on 1) Client; 2) Arrest; 3) Access to Counsel; 4) Interrogation; 5) Pre-trial; 6) Legal Proceedings; 7) Establishing the defense of your client in court; and 8) Sentencing and Redress.
- Lawyers’ skills and capabilities to defend indigents in remand or in prison have improved, furthering the legal climate of justice in Zimbabwe. 50% of all IBJ-trained lawyers meet the eight minimum performance standards on representing an accused person, which amounts to a 42% increase compared to baseline statistics. Post-training surveys have shown that capabilities to notify clients of rights, deal with torture victims and plead for early release of pre-trial detained clients have increased tremendously.
- Five roundtables conducted, attended by 40 lawyers, 15 magistrates and judges and 8 other members of the justice system (CSO members, academics and policy-makers).
- The roundtable meetings were a way to bring justice sector officials closer. It was an opportunity for officials with different backgrounds to share and discuss ideas and points of view on the future of the justice system in Zimbabwe.
- As a result of the roundtables, Harare courts have started to institutionalize free bail for pre-trial detainees represented by IBJ lawyers.
Rights Awareness Campaigns
- 1 radio program on the rights of the accused broadcasted on Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation radio, reaching an estimate of 10,000 people.
- IBJ’s work, the issue of death penalty, early access to counsel and legal rights education have been given increased space in the official Zimbabwe media, in particular prominent newspaper The Herald, H-metro, the radio station Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s SFM, and globally on the BBC, and in the renowned African online news site, AllAfrica.com. Journalists have been increasingly involved in IBJ’s roundtable forums where they discussed ways in which they could effectively contribute to reporting abuses and monitoring the justice system, beyond publicized political cases.
- 190 detainees who had been in prison for up to 3 years without expected trial dates assisted.
- In September 2009, out of the total number of cases handled by IBJ Legal Fellows and trained lawyers, only one involved a juvenile and none involved women. In August 2010, out of the total number of cases handled (190), 16 cases involved juveniles and 2 involved women. This corresponds to a 50% increase in the number of cases involving at-risk population.
- The Fellows have successfully challenged the guilty pleas in court that some victims had tendered due to torture during the course of criminal investigation.
- Lawyers from 4 different NGOs traditionally focusing on civil matters have joined the IBJ criminal defense trainings. The Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) is initiating a program to use its national centers to provide legal assistance in criminal cases, particularly to women and juveniles. Similarly, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has pledged to contribute to IBJ’s efforts to create a culture of criminal legal and pro bono-culture in Zimbabwe and has taken steps to institutionalize a system of legal aid cases allocation among registered lawyers in Zimbabwe.
MoUs and partnerships:
- IBJ has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO).
- Moreover, IBJ has developed a close relationship with the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ).
- The DRC is starting to be a legal hub in Harare, which contributes to spreading the legal aid culture in Zimbabwe.
- IBJ’s efforts have also increasingly driven governmental entities and civil society to prioritize criminal legal aid.
- By improving collegiality between justice officials, a step has been taken to improve the rights of the criminally accused that are in jail without representation. This is illustrated by the institutionalization of free bail in Harare Courts and the closer cooperation between NGOs in Zimbabwe.
The lives we change: Read about the courageous defenders we work with.