We are delighted to announce that Quinn O’Keefe will be joining ILAC as the new Washington D.C.-based director. [Read more…]
We caught up with Christian Åhlund, ILAC’s Executive Director, to hear more about ILAC’s opening an office in Washington and other developments as the Consortium fully enters its second decade of operations.
“Even though most of the Arab countries are characterised by their delayed ratification of human rights agreements, their main goal is to enable citizens to enjoy all their rights and freedoms. After the so called Arab-Spring we have entered a new era for human rights in the legal systems of the Arab countries.”
Ms Samia Bourouba, Associate Professor at the Higher School of Magistracy in Algeria, head author of the specialised study Jurisprudence in the Application of Human Rights in Arab Courts, interviewed by Rhodri Williams, ILAC Programme Manager.
Transition takes time. But Tunisia can move fast. Sharing experiences with international experts is one way of quickly finding good international practice, says judge Cristi Danilet, one of the CEELI Institute experts on ILAC Training of Tunisian judges programme.
“I believe judicial institutes should play a key role in fostering a culture of integrity. True independence will happen only when you believe in, and are able to act upon it. This is a cornerstone for any society built on the rule of law.” Helena Rietz, Ambassador of Sweden to Jordan, was praising the Rule of Law work by ILAC and RWI in her opening remark at the RWI Regional Judicial Meeting and Launch Ceremony in Amman, Jordan, 26 May.
When implementing rule of law in transitional countries, a system approach bringing all actors together, is really needed. And this is what ILAC is able to do. An interview with Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, from Liberia, newly elected member of the ILAC executive committee.
Independence, court efficiency and public trust. Despite differences between countries, there are some key elements in all transitional periods. And transition takes time. Referring to the experiences from the Czech Republic, Ms Ivana Hrdličková, judge and a Legal Expert of Council of Europe and researcher in Islamic Sharia,says in this web interview that the Tunisian transition “might take generations”. But the country is surely on the right track.
This first MENA Stakeholder Seminar was dealing with the different aspects of Tunisia´s transition from the Ben Ali era to a democratic country based on the rule of law. The seminar, was opened by the Tunisian Minister of Justice, and consisted of two panels. One with high level participation by Tunisian politicians, judges and academics and one with international high level experts, commenting on the possibilities of using the Tunisian experience for transition in other countries.
Mr Hafedh Ben Salah, Minister of Justice
Mr Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoud, president of the Tunisian Bar Association
Mr Ghazi Gherairi, secretary general of the International Academy of Constitutional Law in Tunis
Mr Imed Derouiche, judge, director of Institut Superieur de la Magistrature
Mr Samir Annabi, Chairman of Tunisias National Anti-Corruption Authority
Mr Joel Martin, head of special projects at the CEELI Institute
Ms Ivana Hrdlickova, judge and a Legal Expert of Council of Europe and researcher in Islamic Sharia
Watch the first panel here:
Watch the second panel here:
Watch in arabic here:
“Wars never last forever. Syria needs a political solution. The Syrian regime killed thousands of people, but in the end we’re all Syrians, and after the revolution, we need to re-establish the concept of the state. People are confusing the state of Syria with the Assad regime, and it’s important that we can strengthen the rule of law in Syria. Not only after the revolution, but right now, during the conflict”. Mazin Albalkhi, ILAC Representative in Turkey and Syrian Project Manager, gives his thought on the next important steps in Syria.
The implementation of democracy and rule of law in post-conflict countries with weak democratic tradition, can not be imposed by “peace builders” from abroad. In the context of a post-conflict country where well-intentioned foreign entities scramble to re-establish justice, there is a risk that the rule of law may in fact become a ‘disingenuous ideological tool’. The Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA), is playing a crucial role in advancing attitudes in favour of the rule of law and a functioning democracy. That’s some of the main conclusions in the recent report The Rule of Law, Democracy and the Legal Profession in the Afghan Context: Challenges and Opportunities, by Dr Phillip Tahmindjis, Director, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, (IBAHRI).
Mazin Al-Balkhi, is the new ILAC representative, stationed in Gaziantep, Turkey, and working as Syrian project manager.
Before the Syrian revolution, Mazin was a women rights defender, english teacher and a translator, and since the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2013 he worked as the legal commission coordinator and office manager of its president in the Syrian national coalition for opposition and revolutionary forces.
Mazin Albalkhi has a BA in english literature from Damascus university, and is now doing his second BA in international and diplomatic relations in Damascus university.Apart from playing an important role in work of the Syrian national coalition, Mazin Al-Balkhi, also has been a political analyst and journalist. And a poet! He writes poetry in both Arabic and English and has won many contests.
The rest of the ILAC team greet Mazin, and welcomes him to play an important role in the ILAC MENA programme!
The next part of the ILAC program on training judges in Tunisia, will also include participants from Morocco.
On 24 January, ILAC and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, signed a 3-year agreement on the continuation of the program “Training of Tunisian Judges”.
Cherif Bassiouni is sometimes referred to as the father of modern international criminal law. Born in Cairo in 1937, he has been central in the creation of every major instrument of international criminal law over the last fifty years, including the Apartheid Convention, the Torture Convention and the creation of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, where he played a key role. More recently, however, he has expressed doubts about the future of the ICC, due to its exorbitant costs and beaucratic overload.
Cherif Bassiouni is a non-resident professor of law at the Cairo University and professor emeritus at De Paul University College of Law in Chicago, where he has taught international criminal law and human rights since 1964.
Cherif Bassiouni ́s activities in support of international criminal law and human rights have taken him to all of the world ́s recent major theaters of war, such as the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In various positions in the service of the United Nations, Cherif Bassiouni has documented war crimes and prepared prosecutions. In particular, Cherif Bassiouni played an important role in having sexual violence against women recognized as a war crime after the atrocities in Bosnia in the early ́90s.
Cherif Bassiouni has also over the years been active in various attempts to bring peace to the Middle East. As an advisor to then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he was one of the architects behind the the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978. More recently, he supported the Gaza Flotilla initiative in 2010 and in 2011 he was appointed by the King of Bahrein to head a commission (”the Bassiouni Commission”) with the mandate to investigate the violence during the period of unrest in Bahrein in February and March 2011. The commission ́s report expressed criticism against excessive use of force and the use of torture by the Bahreini security forces. In the current conflict in Syria, Cherif Bassiouni has called for the UN to establish an investigation commission to collect evidence about war crimes to prepare the ground for future war crimes trials.
Stockholm Human Rights Award was initiated in 2009 by the International Bar Association(IBA), the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) and the Swedish Bar Association. It is awarded annually to a person or an organisation for outstanding services in the support of human rights and the rule of law.
The award ceremony will take place Tuesday 26 November 2013, at the Berwald Hall in Stockholm.
Download Executive Summary in English
Download Executive Summary in Arabic
From 15-24 January 2013, an eight-person team of experts from member organisations of the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) conducted an intensive review of numerous justice sector institutions in Libya. This review also examined several crosscutting issues facing the justice sector in the aftermath of the 2011 revolt.
The ILAC team found that the justice sector in Libya currently faces a variety of simultaneous challenges. Unquestionably, the two greatest – and interrelated – challenges are security and the fate of roughly 8,000 ‘conflict-related’ detainees still being held without charges or representation. The absence of security for justice sector personnel has led judges and prosecutors to indefinitely delay the processing of detainees’ cases. The continued confinement of these individuals in state-run and non-state prisons, often under harsh conditions, in turn exacerbates the sense of lawlessness that contributes to the lack of security.
At the same time, the justice sector faces the difficult task of dealing with allegations of significant abuses by revolutionary forces during and after the 2011 uprising. Imbued with ‘revolutionary legitimacy,’ anti-Gaddafi fighters are heroes to many Libyans, who are willing to overlook alleged excesses and even atrocities committed in the name of the Revolution. Victims, along with many in the international community, view the situation far differently, and decry the lack of prosecution of revolutionary wrongs. With irregular revolutionary forces still actively operating thought Libya, the lack of security has made addressing these issues both politically and personally dangerous for justice sector personnel.
The justice sector’s ability to act independently during the current transitional period is also degraded by its lack of legitimacy. This issue is complicated by the fact that the justice sector is both the object of transitional reform efforts, and the vehicle for the transitional prosecution of past abuses. Thus, any extensive vetting of justice sector actors (judges, prosecutors, People’s Lawyers, private lawyers) will significantly impact the system’s ability to process cases. Yet, as one interlocutor in the Ministry of Justice put it, “how can the same judges suspected of misbehaviour during the Gaddafi re- gime sit in judgment of alleged Gaddafi supporters?”
Another factor contributing to the justice sector’s lack of legitimacy is that the process of attaining full independence for many institutions remains incomplete. Structurally, full independence requires not only scrutiny of on-going links between the justice sector and the executive, but also a review of the legislation and practices affecting these institutions. This process is far from complete for the judiciary, prosecution, the Ministry of Justice, and the private Bar.
Justice sector reform in Libya faces numerous other issues. Despite Gaddafi-era propa- ganda, the status of women in the justice sector – both as professionals and members of the public seeking justice – raises significant concerns. Though women predominate at law faculties, they frequently comprise a small minority of judges, prosecutors, govern- mental officials, and active members of the private Bar. Few women hold positions of authority in these institutions. Additionally, Libyan legislation and government policies fail to effectively address issues of violence against women and gender bias.
Other issues arise from the fact that those responsible for implementing these reforms typically spent their working lives subject to the perverse ideology and informational isolation imposed during 42 years of control by the Gaddafi regime. This lack of exposure to internationally recognized concepts and practices is hampering the process of reform, and frustrating those who genuinely seek effective change.
Finally, the Libyan justice sector at present is struggling with a lack of coordination and communication between the various actors. Independent but co-equal institutions have not yet developed mechanisms for efficiently and effectively working together to serve a common public goal.
Efforts to create ad hoc judicial bodies to handle transitional justice in Libya such as the Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission (FFRC) are constrained by the lack of legislative clarity for their mission. Equally important, creating and training new ad hoc judicial, prosecutorial and defence institutions would be far more time-consuming than enhancing the capacity of existing structures. Given that the prolonged detention of thousands of ‘conflict-related’ detainees, and need to reach some resolution regarding offenses allegedly committed by revolutionary forces, delay to create a new system is not an attractive option. Thus, while ad hoc institutions may have a role in such matters as fact-finding or reparations to victims of human rights abuses, the ordinary courts provide the only existing system remotely capable of processing the existing prosecution caseload.
Based on these findings, the ILAC team developed a set of recommendations for use by Libyan authorities and international partners. These recommendations focus on concrete steps that can be taken in the near and medium term to advance rule of law reform in Libya. In part, these recommendations require action by Libyan authorities and institutions. Other recommendations contemplate joint programs, where inter- national partners can provide Libyan professionals with comparative insights, and allow the Libyan partners to develop Libyan solutions utilizing international experiences and expertise.
Ultimately, the shape and course of the rule of law in Libya is for Libyans to decide. The ILAC team was impressed with the professionalism and commitment of many Libyans involved in the reform effort. ILAC hopes that this assessment and the accompanying recommendations will assist Libyan reformers and their international partners in moving forward to develop the new Libya earned through the bravery and sacrifice of the Libyan people.
The Assessment Mission and Report were funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
ILAC has carried out a needs assessment related to rule of law and the justice system in Libya. Between the 16 and 24 of January 2013, a delegation composed of experts selected from ILAC’s member organizations visited Libya to examine the needs of the justice sector, the demands likely to be imposed on it in the context of Libya’s ongoing transition to democracy, and ways in which support might be provided in overcoming these challenges.
The team members were:
Mr. William Meyer, Lawyer, ILAC Chair and Team Leader.
Ms. Elizabeth Howe, Chief Crown Prosecutor England and Wales, and General Counsel of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP).
Dr. Mark Ellis, Executive Director, International Bar Association.
Ms. Marianne de Rooij, Senior Judge District Court Amsterdam, Regional Director for Europe and the Middle East, International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ).
Mr. Rita Reddy, Lawyer, Human Rights and International Law Specialist with extensive UN experience, member of International Senior Lawyers’ Project (ISLP), Geneva.
Mr. Pim Albers, Independent International Expert working with American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) in Libya and Tunisia, Advisor to the Ministry of Justice, Amsterdam.
Ms. Haidi Ali, Arab Organisation for Human Rights, Senior Researcher, Cairo.
Mr. Rhodri Williams, Lawyer and ILAC Libya Program Manager.
A Mission Report will be written in the weeks following the mission. The report will contain recommendations for support to the justice system. These recommendations will be designed to help the government, NGOs, donors and IGOs identify priority areas for future activities and funding. It will also help in formulating project proposals and capacity building programmes.
In parallel with the assessment mission, training courses were held by the two ILAC member organisations Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Arab Organisation for Human Rights. Among the participants were judges, prosecutors, police officers, lawyers, and civil society activists.
The assessment mission and the traing were funded by the Swedish development agency, Sida.
Since the conference Libya- Rule of Law Priorities in February 2012, ILAC has prepared for the follow-up work in Libya, assessments, seminars, baseline studies and program design. This work will intensify during October and November 2012.
Subject to financing, ILAC is planning to hire a Program Manager for the work regarding Libya.
Stockholm Human Rights Award 2012 will honour the memory of Raoul Wallenberg, who was born 100 years ago. Against this background, this year´s laureates, Thomas Hammarberg and European Roma Rights Centre, are particularly well qualified. Thomas Hammarberg has during his time as the Council of Europe´s Commissioner of Human Rights worked particularly hard to improve the situation of the Roma population, which is today Europe´s most exposed and discriminated ethnic minority. ERRC conducts its often controversial activities in the heart of Hungary, which is one of the countries where the Roma suffer the strongest repression.
Thomas Hammarberg has devoted almost his whole professional life to the promotion of human rights in Europe and the world. From 2006 to 2012, he was the Council of Europe´s Commissioner for Human Rights. Previously, he was i.a. secretary general of the Olof Palme International Center (2005-05), Swedish ambassador for human rights (1994-2002), secretary general for the Swedish Save the Children (1986-92) and secretary general for Amnesty International (1980-1986).
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is based in Budapest and works to strenghthen the situation of the Roma, through i.a. training, information, research and litigation. ERRC was established in 1996 and has successfully promoted the cause of the Roma against Hungary in several prominent cases in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Stockholm Human Rights Award was initiated in 2009 by the International Bar Association(IBA), the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) and the Swedish Bar Association. It is awarded annually to a person or an organisation for outstanding services in the support of human rights and the rule of law.
The award ceremony will take place in the afternoon of 26 November 2012, at the Berwald Hall in Stockholm.
On March 14, the world’s major international organizations representing the legal profession jointly sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in support of the lawyers of Syria, reportedly being harassed, imprisoned and abused for participating in peaceful dissent or representing Syrian citizens involved in protests.
Signed by fourteen international legal professional organizations, the letter expresses the strong support of the international legal community for those Syrian lawyers being prevented by the Syrian authorities from carrying out their professional responsibilities in an independent and impartial manner. The fourteen organizations strongly condemn the actions of the Syrian government, and call upon the Syrian authorities to meet their obligations embodied in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Speaking on behalf of the authors of the letter, William D. Meyer, chair of the International Legal Assistance Consortium, said, “The overwhelming evidence gathered by international organizations demonstrates that Syrian authorities are not adequately safeguarding the security of lawyers, as required by the UN Principles.” He added, “The international legal community has resolved to speak with one voice in support of Syrian lawyers attempting to work in unimaginably arrant conditions. It is important that they know that their work is recognized and applauded by their colleagues outside of Syria.”
The letter is intended to send a powerful twofold message that there is cohesive international support for those peacefully working for reform, and that Syrian legal professionals who are silent, or supporting regime policies, are on the wrong side of history.
From November 16-23, 2011, ILAC conducted pre-assessment mission to Libya. William Meyer, Chair of ILAC, and Agneta Johansson, ILAC’s Deputy Director, accompanied representatives of the Arab Organization for Human Rights on a combined fact-finding and training mission to Libya in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities.
Working with the AOHR and representatives of ILAC member Palestinian Center for Human Rights, ILAC traveled throughout northwestern and central Libya to meet with representatives of the judiciary, prosecution, Bar and civil society, as well as the interim leaders of various revolutionary councils.
A primary goal of the ILAC mission was to preliminarily assess the current state of Libyan institutions critical to developing the rule of law, such as the courts, prosecution, and Bar, to determine if assistance by international organizations would be useful to and appreciated by our Libyan colleagues. Based on our discussions and observations, we came away with the strong sense that a substantial number of Libyans among the revolutionary forces sincerely want to see a democratic Libya based on the rule of law. However, it was also apparent that, in the aftermath of the Revolution, Libya at present lacks of any sort of centralized national governance or control. Formal institutions, to the extent that they even existed under the Gaddafi regime, no longer function. Finally, it was obvious to us that time is of the essence. Every day of delay causes additional death, suffering and societal polarization.
A second goal of the ILAC mission, given the immediacy of the Revolution and its aftermath, was to probe allegations and counter allegations relating to alleged violations of international law that a free Libya must address. Accordingly, the joint team visited various sites in Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiya, Sabrata, Zliten, Al-Khoms, Tawourgha, and Sirte to investigate and interview witnesses concerning current conditions, and a variety of alleged incidents involving Gaddafi forces, rebel forces and NATO. While the report of the AOHR will address many of the team’s specific observations, the ILAC team confirmed that Libya faces substantial past, present and future human rights issues.
Finally, ILAC participated in intensive training provided by the AOHR for more than 60 Libyan lawyers, judges, prosecutors and members of civil society in human rights law and principles. The work of the AOHR in this regard, including training provided by personnel from PCHR, was exemplary. Equally important, the enthusiasm and commitment of large numbers of younger Libyan lawyers and activists confirmed that assistance by international organizations would be useful to and appreciated by those working for a free Libya governed by the rule of law.
Based on these observations, the pre-assessment team recommends to Council that ILAC and its member organizations (a) immediately begin engaging the Libyan legal community concerning rule of law development and reform priorities, and (b) promptly thereafter begin implementing programs to address these priorities. Toward that end, the pre-assessment team recommends that planning begin immediately to convene a conference of Libyan legal professionals and civil society actors to outline rule their rule of law priorities directly with donors and implementing organizations that can assist with Libya’s transition. In view of the present absence of effectively functioning national rule of law structures, the pre-assessment team recommends that this conference focus on local Bar and civil society activists, who have demonstrated a commitment to and willingness to work for the establishment of the rule of law.
The pre-assessment team further recommends that Council authorize the preparation of a needs assessment mission, to travel to Libya shortly after the conclusion of the conference. This mission will work with Libyan stakeholders to plan the detailed implementation of programs outlined at the conference. In addition, the needs assessment mission will examine the progress made in establishing effectively functioning national rule of law structures in Libya, and make further recommendations to Council regarding any additional assistance that may be useful in that regard.
A small ILAC assessment mission visited South Sudan in December 2011.
An ILAC delegation visited Juba in April for initial talks and agreed with the Ministry of Justice to come back with an assessment mission after the independence (9 July).
The team members are:
Mr. Rodger Chongwe, ILACs Africa Representative, former Minister of Justice from Zambia, now a practicing lawyer in Lusaka. Mr. Chongwe will be the team leader.
Mr. Kalevi Tervanen, Judge and Lawyer from Finland. At present Partner and Head of Middle East and Africa Team in a Finnish law firm. Long experience in justice related projects, specially in the Middle East.
Mr. Bill Meyer, Lawyer, US and ILAC Chair, also participated in the mission. Mr. Meyer was the Raporteur of the mission.
From November 16-23, 2011, ILAC conducted its initial mission to Libya. William Meyer, Chair of ILAC, and Agneta Johansson, ILAC’s Deputy Director, accompanied representatives of the Arab Organization for Human Rights on a combined fact-finding and training mission to Libya in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities.
Working with the AOHR and representatives of ILAC member Palestinian Center for Human Rights, ILAC traveled throughout northwestern and central Libya to meet with representatives of the judiciary, prosecution, Bar and civil society, as well as the interim leaders of various revolutionary councils. The joint team visited various sites in Tripoli, Misrata, Zawiya, Al-Khoms and Sirte to investigate and interview witnesses concerning current conditions, and a variety of alleged incidents involving Khadafy forces, rebel forces and NATO. At the request of the AOHR, ILAC also participated in intensive training provided by the AOHR for more than 60 Libyan lawyers, judges, prosecutors and members of civil society in human rights law and principles.
Assist Libyan jurists
Based upon the findings of this mission, ILAC will work with its members, as well as other international organizations and NGOs, to assist Libyan jurists in developing responses to the urgent challenges faced in building the rule of law in a new, free Libya.
The AOHR’s detailed report on its findings will be available in December 2011.
The 2011 Stockholm Human Rights Award was given to George Soros and Aryeh Neier.
George Soros has been a prominent international supporter of democratic ideals and causes for more than 30 years. His philanthropic organization, the Open Society Foundations, supports democracy and human rights in over 70 countries. Born in Budapest in 1930, George Soros is Chairman of Soros Fund Management, LLC.
Aryeh Neier is president of the Open Society Foundations. Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations in 1993, he served for 12 years as executive director of Human Rights Watch, of which he was a founder in 1978. Before that, he worked 15 years at the American Civil Liberties Union, including eight years as national executive director. He served as an adjunct professor of law at New York University for more than a dozen years.
The Stockholm Human Rights Award is a joint initiative by the International Bar Association (IBA), the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) and the Swedish Bar Association. It is awarded annually to an individual or an institution for outstanding contributions to the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights.
Earlier laureates have included the South African judge Richard Goldstone and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
ILAC engaged in a high level conference
Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) in cooperation with the Commonwealth Secretariat and International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) held a high level conference to engage stakeholders, including African State Parties to the ICC, the African Union and sub-regional bodies, and human rights and justice sectors in Africa in Dialogue on the evolving regime of international criminal justice and the work of the ICC. The conference was held on 21-22 October, to coincide with Africa Day of Human Rights on 21 October. Gaborone, Botswana has been chosen as the venue for this conference because of Botswana’s principled stance on international criminal justice and the work of the ICC.
ILAC visited South Sudan on an eight day fact finding trip, 17-24 March.
The purpose of the trip was to learn more about both the immediate and long term needs within the justice sector.
ILAC Africa Representative, Mr. Rodger Chongwe from Zambia, traveled together with Agneta Johansson, Deputy Director of ILAC, and met with different representatives of the justice sector. The meetings resulted in a better understanding of the needs, and of other international actors involvement in Southern Sudan. The ILAC delegation were also able to present ILAC to different actors within the legal sector, in the judiciary, and civil society organizations.
The next step is that we after the independence at 9 July, 2011, will send a team representing our member organisations to assess the situation more in detail and discuss what kind of programs and projects ILAC and its member organisations can contribute with, says Agneta Johansson.
At the invitation of the Tunis Bar, a delegation from ILAC visited Tunisia 10-12 March to prepare for a possible programme of assistance to the Tunisian judicial system. The delegation consisted of Christian Åhlund from the ILAC Head Office, the President of Union Internationale des Avocats, Pascal Maurer, and Paul Simonett, who is the Middle East and North Africa Representative of the American Bar Association. Both UIA and ABA are members of ILAC.
The delegation was received by the Interim President of Tunisia, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. Meetings also took place with the President of the Bar, several other members of the Bar, the association of judges and with civil society. The delegation was impressed with the obvious determination of our counterparts to ensure a swift and effective transistion to a democratic society and an independent judiciary. Discussions are now under way with our Tunisian counterparts about a training program for judges as well as a more in-depth needs assessment mission.
The centerpiece of ILAC´s activities in Haiti has for a couple of years been a nation-wide legal aid programme, the SYNAL (Systeme Nationale d´Assistance Legale), which is financed and administered by ILAC, with logistical support by the UN mission in Haiti, which also seconds key staff to the ILAC Haiti office.
At the end of 2010, SYNAL employed some 200 Haitian lawyers in 12 offices around the country. Most of the work consists of legal aid in criminal cases. During the two years that the SYNAL has been operative, we have handled some 8 000 cases, and managed to get almost 4 000 individuals out of jail.
An important contribution to the SYNAL programme is being made by the New York-based ILAC member ISLP (International Senior Lawyers Project), which provides pro-bono mentor attorneys on a continuing basis to the SYNAL offices.
Thus far, the entire ILAC programme in Haiti has been funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). But the Sida money for SYNAL will run out at the end of February 2011. Consequently, the continued funding for SYNAL has been a growing concern for some time. So it is with great relief that ILAC can now announce that UNASUR (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas – the politicial and economic cooperation project, which brings together 12 South American countries) has in December 2010 agreed to ensure the continued funding of SYNAL, beginning 1 March 2011. The money from UNASUR will enable SYNAL not only to continue the operation of the existing 12 offices, but also to expand the number to 20, to cover all of Haiti´s jurisdictions, with 3 offices in the capital Port-au-Prince.
The cooperation between UNASUR and ILAC constitutes an important break-through as it is the first time that ILAC will receive funding from a donor in Latin America. This development is the result of the outstanding work of ILAC´s Haiti Programme Director Francisco Diaz and his team in Haiti, and of Francisco´s reputation and network in the Latin American region.