The ILAC Mena Rule of Law Programme 2014-2016, funded by Swedish Sida, is an extensive programme and a long term mission. The programme is divided into several sub-projects, and in a first phase ILAC and its partners focus on the following:
- Supporting application of human rights standards by Arab courts – read more
- Strengthening women judges’ capacity to provide judicial leadership on gender and access to justice – read more
- Strengthening the Capacity of the National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights in Libya – read more
- Strengthening the application of international of human rights standards in Tunisia through supporting understanding of international criminal law – read more
- Training of Tunisian Judges – read more
- Strengthening the capacity and effectivity of Tunisian Anti-Corruption Agency – read more
Some of these projects are already ‘up and running’ and others about to start. In the meantime ILAC are planning projects for a further extension of the Mena Programme. Examples of sub-projects include:
- The Bar Supporting Economic Growth – Assistance to the Justice Ministry in reforming and modernising the management and administration of Libya’s Courts – read more
- Mena network for investigation and prevention of corruption – read more
- Support to the Libyan Ministry of Justice – read more
- Independence and effectiveness of the Libyan Judiciary – read more
- Capacity of Tunisian Bar – read more
ILAC, with its partners, has been active in the MENA region since 2004. In this work ILAC has identified 8 key factors in implementing Rule of Law:
1. Executive control of the judiciary
Throughout the MENA region, one of the most widespread challenges to the rule of law has been executive control of the judiciary. For instance, in Libya, the Ministry of Justice previously influenced the careers of Libyan judges and continues to bear financial responsibility for judge’s salaries and the administration of judicial premises, requiring it to combine the commitment to reform needed to ensure an effectively run judiciary with the sensitivity required in order not to be seen as compromising its independence. For these reasons, ILAC and the Libyan Ministry of Justice jointly identified support for more efficient courtroom administrators as a key priority.
2. Judicial independence
In transitional settings, judicial independence must be safeguarded but should neither be interpreted as preventing judiciaries in the region from engaging in appropriate ways with the rest of society, nor as an obstacle to their application of relevant human rights standards. This is why ILAC identified the training of sitting judges on their role in a transition to democracy as an early priority, initiating a program eventually meant to reach all Tunisian judges in Tunisia and proposing not only to extend this program but also to initiate similar trainings for sitting judicial officials in Libya.
3. Prospective reform and capacity building
Considering the recent history and the current situation of the judiciaries in the region, further prospective reform and capacity building will be required to fully restore their credibility for ordinary people, and particularly members of vulnerable and marginalized groups. With a view to supporting an effective and independent judiciary over the longer term, ILAC has prioritized assistance to judicial training institutes, in order to ensure that coming generations of judges are familiarized with the application of human rights norms in a democratic society from the beginning of their careers.
4. Specialized training meeting international obligations
In Tunisia, the Ministry of Justice has supported extension of the already on-going training of Tunisian judges and requested additional specialized training of a group of judges and lawyers in international criminal law, both as a way of complying with the requirements of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and in order to prepare for trials in support of the transitional justice process. Accordingly, ILAC sees the training of Tunisian judges and prosecutors as a key contribution to ensuring that the transitional justice process in Tunisia is clearly founded in terms of the country’s international obligations.
5. Women in leadership roles
Women remain underrepresented in leadership roles in judicial systems in the MENA region, giving rise to concerns about both the accessibility of justice for women and the capacity of judicial systems to guarantee equality. The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), an ILAC member organization, works with its members and others, in a country or region, to facilitate women judges’ own discussions of issues, allowing them to share their experiences and best practices. For this reason, ILAC views the support to identify obstacles to women’s careers in the legal profession as well as women’s broader access to justice as a key rule of law priority for the region.
6. Reinforcing independent bar associations
Bar associations can provide a vital service by functioning as a link between ordinary citizens and the judicial system, regulating the private legal profession and facilitating legal aid to the indigent. Many of the bar associations in the region have been subject to political influence or control by authoritarian governments and may still be viewed with suspicion by populations that see them as corrupt or subject to political influence. In many cases, bar associations also suffer as a result of inexperienced management, poor coordination and low capacity. Overcoming such obstacles will be crucial. ILAC has within its ranks unique expertise and experience relevant to the numerous challenges of building and reinforcing independent bar associations.
7. NHRI’s role in promoting and protecting human rights
Many countries in the MENA region have instituted National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), but these tend to much more recently established than courts and are often still in the process of developing their capacity. NHRIs nevertheless have a crucial role to play in promoting and protecting human rights in the region and broad mandates to address complaints of violations. In view of the ongoing and serious human rights violations in Libya, and considering the fact that the newly formed Libyan National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights has been given a strong mandate and a qualified staff, ILAC has selected this human rights institution as particularly likely to transform support into positive results
8. Supporting specialised anti-corruption agencies
Authoritarian regimes in the MENA region have provided a fertile environment for corruption, with an inner circle around ruling families frequently exercising close control over most of their country´s wealth and economic operations. Corruption has frequently continued to be a serious problem even in the wake of political transitions. In order to curb corruption, some countries in the MENA region have established specialized anti-corruption agencies. Tunisia has demonstrated a political will to make a clean break with the past by setting up a credible and well-resourced national anti-corruption agency. ILAC has therefore prioritized support to an institution that can serve as a role model for fighting corruption in other MENA countries.