Following six years of successful programming in Asia, and in response to appeals for assistance, we are expanding our activities to other parts of the world, namely Africa, where programming and planning for legal aid support and advisement of rights campaigns in Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Burundi is currently under way. In addition, IBJ has launched a worldwide partnership program, “Communities of Conscience ,” based in North America and Europe and aimed at building networks of support between legal professionals across developed and developing nations. For a consolidated contact list of our country program offices, please click here.
IBJ Country Programs
During the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia’s legal system was completely destroyed. Since 2001, IBJ has been helping Cambodia to rebuild its justice system by organizing trainings sessions, rights awareness campaigns, roundtables and providing legal aid services. Through its six offices located in Phnom Penh, Takeo, Pursat, Prey Veng, Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri IBJ holds seminars and training sessions throughout the country to help train attorneys and inform citizens of their rights. Under the leadership of Country Fellow Ouk Vandeth, IBJ works to ensure that Cambodia recovers from the horror of the past and becomes a place where every single citizen has a right to justice.
The IBJ China defender program has been one of the most successful and long-running programs the organization has undertaken. Since the beginning of our partnership with the National Legal Aid of China (NLAC) in 2001, IBJ has made a significant impact on the conditions of public defense in China and has contributed to a nationwide transformation of the criminal justice system, especially in the area of juvenile justice.
Despite concrete pledges to protect human rights in its Constitution, India faces many challenges in terms of implementation of domestic legislation to protect due process rights – such as the backlogging of cases and the fact that 70% of prisoners are pre-trial detainees. Since 2007, IBJ has greatly expanded general awareness of indigent defense rights under the leadership of our Country Fellow Ajay Verma, increased coordination between civil society members concerned with indigent services, and brought legal aid to hundreds of defendants through direct services with our partner, MASUM (Platform for Protection of Rights in Bengal) through IBJ fellow Abhijit Datta.
The Vietnamese government has demonstrated a strong commitment and dedication to ensuring social and political stability as well as economic progress, as evidenced by the policies and changes implemented over the years. Committed to responding to these needs, IBJ accomplished a major “first” in April 2004, by holding Vietnam’s first ever criminal lawyers’ training program.
Since the end of its 12 year civil war, Burundi has made great strides towards societal normalization and political freedom. While there are many flaws in its justice system, both law enforcement and judicial officials openly acknowledge the problems, and have expressed a willingness to work to resolve them. Since November 2006, IBJ has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Bar Association of Burundi and a MOU with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH). In 2009 IBJ has hired its first Burundi Fellow, Astère Muyango, to spearhead IBJ’s work in the country, and has opened a Public Defender/Legal Aid Resource Center.
In the last 60 years, Rwanda has been plagued by ethnic violence, culminating in the genocide of 1994 when more than 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. As of October 2008, 26.9% of Rwandan prisoners were pre-trial detainees, most of who are imprisoned without access to legal representation, health care, educational, working opportunities and trial dates. Since its assessment of the legal system in November 2006, IBJ has built partnerships with the Ministry of Justice and the Kigali Bar Association (KBA) to polish the strategy to bring systematic access to legal aid. IBJ has recently been able to secure funding for a defender Resource Center headed by IBJ Rwanda Fellow John Bosco Bugingo.
After 1980 Zimbabwe was widely regarded as a model African democracy but since 2000, the country has been engulfed in a crippling political, economic and humanitarian crisis that has virtually destroyed the progress made over the previous two decades. Since 2006, IBJ has partnered with community organizations to organize roundtable discussion on the problems of prison overcrowding and high pre-trial detention rates, supporting lawyers through skills-building trainings and providing direct legal aid under the leadership of IBJ Zimbabwe Fellow Innocent Maja.
Communities of Conscience
The developed nations of North America and Europe have the benefit of well-established legal systems and judicial practices, and hold tremendous, yet untapped, professional and legal resources, skills and experiences which could readily be made available to accelerate the progress of developing judicial systems. To this end, we launched a “Communities of Conscience” program in 2006, which creates networks of support, trainings and international partnerships to allow this knowledge-sharing and mentorship to take place.
Through IBJ’s 2008 and 2010 JusticeMakers Fellowship Competitions, IBJ is providing $5,000 in seed funding to 23 JusticeMakers Fellows in Africa, Asia, and South America, who are pursuing grassroots legal rights projects to curb torture and legal abuse — thus allowing IBJ to dramatically scale its impact. Click here to browse the most recent class of JusticeMakers Fellows.