SOn 14 July 2017, the Justice Sector Monitoring Programme (JSMP), with technical support from USAID under the Mai Munisípiu project (formerly Ba Distrito), launched its thematic research report on how the courts (formal justice) consider community dispute resolutions (non-formal justice). The report, titled “Court and Alternative Dispute Resolution”, was completed as part of JSMP’s partnership with Mai Munisípiu project implemented by Counterpart International and Tetra Tech DPK and funded by USAID.
The report was produced based on research and monitoring JSMP conducted in Baucau, Covalima, Dili, and Oecusse District Courts during a five month period (January to May 2017). Throughout the period, JSMP observed and analyzed a total of 108 cases from which 26 were resolved within families/communities before being brought to the court, while 82 cases were conciliated before and by the courts. The report provides a better understanding of how the courts, which administer the formal justice system, consider resolutions of disputes which occurred at the community level in their decision-making process. In giving his observation of the report, the Executive Director of JSMP Mr. Luis Oliveira Sampaio said “the research also found that conciliation that occurred before the court was an important instrument to reduce court caseload.”
The report concludes that although community resolutions have positive aspects that are beneficial to the formal justice system – i.e. minimizing the court workload by solving some of the minor crimes (semipublic crimes), the courts’ consideration of the resolutions should follow the existing laws. “Basically the Office of Prosecution Services also has the competence to withdraw cases constituting semipublic crimes during the questioning which can lead to terminate the process, but this does not happen so far,” Mr. Sampaio continued.
The President of the Court of Appeal Hon. Judge Deolindo dos Santos who gave his remarks at the launch event, said, “[t]he Timorese Constitution recognizes customary norms and practices which have existed long before the courts. This practice, which varies from one place to another, is quite widespread throughout Timor-Leste [and] attempts to provide solutions to problems or disputes in the communities”
Also present at the launch event was President of Legislative Reform and Justice Sector Commission (CRL), Dr. Jorge Graca. The Commission was established to undertake research studies and make recommendations to the Government of Timor-Leste (GoTL) about legislative reform necessary to strengthen the justice system. In his remarks, Graca stated that “community dispute resolutions have their own social legitimacy and spiritual power which originated from historical convictions, and this is what our communities practice. Value of community dispute resolutions are underpinned by a collective will of those involved in the commission of offences to create peace and social harmony, and it’s allowed by our Constitution.”
Since 2008, the Mexican government has made various efforts to implement, consolidate, and disseminate information about the New Criminal Justice System (NCJS). However, the National Survey on the Criminal Justice System conducted in 2012 showed that only 11% of the population was aware of justice system changes and that guidance and information services were not being provided to justice system users. This was the last survey to measure the level of citizen knowledge about the NCJS and its available services.
In 2015, USAID’s Promoting Justice project (PROJUST) began developing informational websites about the NCJS in four states in response to justice institutions’ requests for support for assistance in promoting awareness of the services provided to citizens under the NCJS. In 2016, PROJUST, in collaboration with Locatel, succeeded in elevating the state website project to another level by creating a citizen assistance multiplatform for the NCJS called Justice for You. The multiplatform seeks to inform citizens at the national level about what to do if they are involved in a criminal process through three support channels: a customized website for each state, online chat, and a call center.
Justice for You (www.justiciaparati.mx) was launched on October 12, 2016. USAID provided technical assistance for the project’s design and development as well as training for call center operators. Currently it provides service in four states: Mexico City, Coahuila, the State of Mexico, and Tabasco. By the end of 2017, it will serve the citizens of 28 additional states. As of June 2017, the website has received 7,818 visits and 5,719 guidance inquiries from citizens facing criminal proceedings as victims, accused, or interested third parties.
For Emma Huitron, coordinator of the Justice for You call center, “it has been a great pleasure to be able to support people who don’t have a lawyer to guide them through an urgent situation and ensuring they can obtain the necessary information over the phone to avoid larger problems or unlawful detention.”
Justice for You is sustainable in the long term because of the coordinated efforts between USAID and the Government of Mexico City, the Ministry of Interior of Mexico and the National Conference of Governors (CONAGO), who all officially inaugurated this service at the national level through a cooperation agreement. In 2017, USAID through PROJUST, will continue to build customized websites for more states and in coordination with Locatel, the call center service will be disseminated through local campaigns. PROJUST will also seek to include referrals to civil society organizations that work closely with justice institutions, in order to offer more options to citizens. By 2019, PROJUST plans to launch websites in all 32 states with the goal that all Mexicans have access to this service.
Tetra Tech’s Justice Sector Assistance Project, funded by the US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, has been supporting the Palestinian Authority Security Forces by developing Epsilon-P, a law enforcement information system that is promising to transform PASF operations. Through Epsilon-P, five PASF agencies – the Palestinian Civil Police, District Coordination Office, Civil Defense, Presidential Guard, and National Security Forces – plus another agency, the Administration and Organization Commission (AOC), have for the first time agreed to share security-related information. By signing the Epsilon-P charter, these agencies have committed to working together to improve security across the West Bank through information sharing.
An Executive Leadership Council now meets once a month to provide guidance and direction to the Tetra Tech-supported Epsilon-P software development team and to solicit feedback on the system from user groups in each agency. One of the first software modules, covering human resources (HR), will enable security services to share information electronically with the AOC which is the main body responsible for HR in the various security agencies. Another early module, on operations, will facilitate communication and coordination between the security services.
Col. Suliman Abu Rub of the Palestinian Civil Police, the elected Chairman of the Executive Leadership Council, remarked, “Epsilon-P’s strongest point is that it brought several security services together and unified the approach and vision of these services regarding adopting one [information technology] solution. This is a major step as it will unify the technology in all services which in turn will make data sharing very easy. Epsilon-P also provides a unified infrastructure which makes the development process easier and more cost effective.” To help ensure sustainability, Tetra Tech is providing specialized information technology training to improve staff skills and capabilities.
Tetra Tech’s Justice Sector Assistance Project (JSAP), funded by the US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), has been providing material and technical support to strengthen the capacities of the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP) Cybercrime Unit. Owing to this support, the unit has seen increasing success solving complex criminal cases involving electronic evidence.
The PCP established the Cybercrime Unit in 2013 and tasked it with processing and analyzing crime scenes that contain electronic and digital evidence. Tetra Tech’s support has included providing “first response” training, developing standard operating procedures, providing data-recovery software and training PCP staff on its use, and training prosecutors and judges on the use of digital evidence in criminal cases. In addition, Tetra Tech equipped the unit with forensic software, computers, and office furnishings.
The Head of the Cybercrime Unit, Lt. Col. Samer Hindi, credited INL and JSAP with providing strong support to the unit which has recently solved several high-profile investigations. He noted that when the unit was first established he did not have a clear vision of its role, but by the end of last year, the unit had proven its value by examining electronic evidence in 196 cases. “Now we are processing evidence from juvenile, narcotics, and other cases,” he said. “We are proud that we are offering something helpful.”
Lt. Col. Hindi cited a recent instance where the stronger Cybercrime Unit successfully solved a crime. Thieves broke into an Arab Bank branch in Bir Nabala on February 3, 2017 and stole approximately 500,000 NIS ($130,000) from an ATM. During the commission of the crime, the thieves destroyed the surveillance cameras and damaged the ATM’s internal chip which can self-dial for help. The thieves also removed computer routers and a digital video recorder containing the bank’s surveillance videos. A few days later, the equipment was found by a citizen who turned over the damaged devices to the police. Despite the electronics being damaged, using forensic examination the Cybercrime Unit’s computer analysis response team was able to recover surveillance video showing three masked males breaking into the bank. A police officer was later able to identify one of the suspects who after interrogation admitted to his involvement, implicating the two others and turning over the stolen money to the police.
As a next step in its capacity building activities, Tetra Tech is developing training programs to continue strengthening the Cybercrime Unit of the PCP as well as the Cybercrime Unit of the Attorney General’s Office.
Since September 2016, Tetra Tech has been implementing Epsilon-P, a law enforcement case management and information sharing initiative funded by the US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). With advanced data sharing technology developed with Tetra Tech support, security agencies in the West Bank will be able to share pertinent information on security and law enforcement activities, thus ensuring that timely and key information is available to all necessary law enforcement actors.
The Epsilon-P team recently initiated the design phase of one module of the technology, on human resources. The system will allow security sector leaders to track key data regarding each member of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, including their service records, training records, and qualifications. To ensure buy-in from the local agencies, Epsilon-P conducted a workshop for participating security services to share and discuss the design.
Soon, Epsilon-P will commence work on another module, on operations management, which will be used for reporting incidents, disseminating information as it becomes available, and providing a record of decisions for action and review.
With these modules in place, Tetra Tech’s next key target will be developing the “front porch”, a secure site to which all of the agencies can upload information. With a “front porch” in each jurisdiction populated with investigative and incident information from the several agencies, the system will function both as a tactical and analytical tool for officers, crime investigators, analysts, and strategic decision makers. These capabilities will enhance the investigative abilities of the various security agencies and reduce crime in the region.
Myanmar’s recent history has not been kind to lawyers. Viewed as a potential threat, the legal profession was weakened by military-backed governments that deliberately depleted resources at university law faculties, consolidated lawyer associations under government control, and targeted lawyers unjustly. The results were as intended: the legal curriculum in Myanmar’s universities and the critical analysis typically associated with it were erased, as were independent lawyer associations capable of sustaining continuing legal education programs. Lawyers were also regularly harassed or, worse, arrested without cause. (Photo, left: Lawyers evaluate a fact pattern during the Advanced Case Analysis training in Taungoo, Bago Region).
Although the effects are still quite present, there is evidence that the legal profession is starting to regain some of the stature it once held. An independent lawyers’ association was formed in 2016, which now, with Tetra Tech support, is launching its own organizational development and continuing legal education plans. Parliament is considering a scheme for a national legal aid program, which will afford numerous vulnerable groups access to legal representation. Even while the bill is still under debate, legal aid providers have expressed keen interest in developing their capacity to better meet client needs.
Tetra Tech’s USAID Promoting the Rule of Law Project has been a primary supporter of Myanmar’s legal aid providers, issuing grants to legal aid organizations and helping develop a legal skills curriculum to strengthen the capacity of lawyers serving the country’s poor and other vulnerable groups. The project has now launched its dual-language publication, Legal Aid Toolkit for Myanmar, a self-education resource designed to strengthen the case analysis and organizational skills of Myanmar’s legal aid providers.
The Toolkit is based on a series of Tetra Tech trainings delivered to Myanmar’s legal professionals, and includes skills-based courses, such as case analysis and witness interviewing. To guide and standardize case development, the Toolkit contains numerous templates and model forms for case intake, closing, and analysis, which address 40 of the most common issues arising under the Civil, Criminal, and Procedure Codes. The Toolkit also aims to support the establishment of new legal aid offices, and to that end provides sample forms and policies for a legal aid start up.
Over 200 Myanmar lawyers, paralegals, law students, and civil society representatives attended the recent launch of the Toolkit. The project is now working with other international organizations, including the European Union and UN Development Programme, to introduce the Toolkit through their rule of law programs. With the distribution of the Toolkit, Tetra Tech is building the capacity of legal aid providers to provide effective representation and meet access to justice needs. One young lawyer at the launch, Thet Nyein Maw, summed up the opportunities the Toolkit provides: “I always believed I could be a lawyer, but it is only now I understand how I can think like one.”
El Salvador’s Access to Information Law (AIL) launched a new era in governmental institutional life, ushering in new societal rules about transparency and public information. The AIL created Public Information Access Units (PIAUs), entities responsible for implementing the AIL in all government institutions. PIAUs, which have been established in more than 90 national public institutions and 262 municipalities, have responded to thousands of information requests from citizens through Public Information Officers. This has made information about various government institutions publicly available in an unprecedented way. The law also launched the Institute for Access to Public Information, which has been instrumental to the law's success by acting as an enforcer in what remains, in some circles, an atmosphere of resistance to greater transparency.
This new system has created a cultural shift. It has prompted Information Officers to develop best practices within their institutions, pushing them to go above and beyond what the law requires to guarantee citizens’ access to public information. To recognize those “going the extra mile,” Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Government Integrity Project (Pro-Integridad) helped the PIAUs institutionalize a formal system in 2016 to recognize best transparency practices in government institutions. In its first year, the system showcased nine innovative best practices being implemented by officials across the Salvadoran government.
One of those recognized was Ena Violeta Mirón, an Information Officer with the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (SSSI), who helped the SSSI significantly improve its information delivery to users. The SSSI achieved this by continually updating its new transparency portal, making information immediately available to users who no longer have to submit a formal request to the PIAU. The result has been a more open culture of access to public information among SSSI staff and citizens alike.
Tetra Tech’s USAID project has been assisting in these efforts through a variety of activities, including training and institutional support. The result has been greater access to information, more public confidence in national institutions, and a stronger commitment to a culture of transparency.
Tetra Tech has been working in El Salvador since 2016, implementing the USAID Government Integrity Project (Proyecto Pro-Integridad Pública) to improve transparency and accountability in key government institutions. USAID recently signed memoranda of understanding with 11 municipalities that have demonstrated the political will to implement institutional changes to promote transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in their communities. As part of this effort, Tetra Tech’s USAID Government Integrity Project has helped develop a Municipal Integrity Model (MIM) to transform the culture of municipal institutions.
The MIM, which is initially being adopted in five municipalities, seeks to create a new organizational culture based on consistent ethical standards and institutional procedures to reduce the risk of corruption. The methodology aims to establish an atmosphere of trust, ownership, and accountability through the institution itself conducting an internal analysis of its ethical conditions and by involving the entire work force of the institution in detailed plans to increase transparency.
Tetra Tech initially developed the award-winning institutional integrity methodology for national-level institutions, and has assisted with its successful implementation in a number of countries in Central and South America. Under the leadership of Tetra Tech’s Chief of Party (COP) Paola Barragán in El Salvador, the USAID Government Integrity Project team has adapted this methodology to the municipal context. Each participating municipality establishes a Municipal Integrity Commission, which typically consists of two members of the municipal council, an information officer, an ethics commission representative, an accountability officer, and a community leader. “The commissions are made up of the right people who know the issues and who can make decisions,” explained Daysi Valle, Public Information Officer from Cojutepeque.
Each commission conducts a structured self-evaluation that collects information on institutional conditions in five categories: transparency, accountability, citizen participation, ethics , and public efficiency. Although in some municipalities the results have shown that there is substantial work to be done, municipal participants have received the findings with great enthusiasm. “Working within this framework allows for greater openness and social control in public affairs, and has allowed us to have a comprehensive … approach to [improving transparency] in the municipality,” explained Daniel Escobar, Public Information Officer from Santo Tomás. “I have observed a real energy among municipal officials to become change agents in their communities, which is really heartening,” adds COP Barragán.
Working with the USAID Government Integrity Project, the municipalities are using the results of the self-evaluations to develop specific improvement plans to improve transparency and integrity. This process will build local capacity with the expectation that after one year each municipality will be able to institutionalize the MIM and carry out its own periodic self-assessments. “We are explaining how to apply the methodology to improve … accountability,” said Juan Flamenco, Land Use Registry Chief for the Zaragoza municipality. “Transparency is a big challenge, but our will is greater,” added Daniel Escobar.
With the recent leadership transition in Myanmar, civil society and government leaders must learn to work together to foster a culture of democratic governance. To advance this objective, Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) has been supporting the Access to Justice Initiative (A2JI), a coalition of civil society leaders committed to advocating for structural and policy reforms to improve access to justice in Myanmar.
A2JI, which is composed of more than 40 leading civil society organizations (CSOs), was launched in 2015 with support from USAID. A2JI’s mission is to form a unified civil society platform to identify and engage in constructive advocacy efforts with the new government. A2JI consists of three clusters: Research, Advocacy, and Monitoring & Oversight. Through these clusters, A2JI pursues the following objectives:
Research: Conduct research and analysis to inform policy and advocacy programs, including review of existing laws, collection and analysis of baseline data, and development of an online resource library.
Advocacy: Identify effective, relevant, evidence-based strategies for collective or individual member advocacy.
Monitoring & Oversight: Monitor the performance and reform efforts of the Hluttaw (House of Representatives), executive branch, and judiciary to adhere to international standards.
Over a six-month period in 2016, with technical and other support from USAID’s PRLP, each of these clusters undertook substantive work including research into the inclusion of access-to-justice systems in key laws, an evaluation of recent CSO-led advocacy efforts, and a trial monitoring program. Some of the results demonstrate how much work remains to be done: in only one criminal case, out of more than 100 observed cases, did the defendant have counsel at the time of the remand hearing. Moreover, only 70% of respondents believed they could not challenge a wrongful dismissal from employment, even though there are legal mechanisms to do just that.
These and other findings formed the basis for A2JI’s first set of justice sector and CSO advocacy recommendations, which were presented to members of Parliament. Through support to initiatives like A2JI, USAID’s PRLP is fostering civil society engagement and advocacy and promoting greater access to justice. All of these are in the service of a peaceful transition to an inclusive and transparent democracy for Myanmar.
In December 2016, Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) culminated many months of work with the formal introduction of its Legal Aid Toolkit, a technical manual designed as a self-education resource for lawyers and legal professionals providing legal aid to Myanmar citizens. Some sections of the Toolkit cover skills that legal aid providers need to perform their job well, including case analysis, witness interviewing, alternative dispute resolution, and trial advocacy, while other sections address what it means to be a legal aid provider, including how to operate a legal aid organization and manage legal aid cases.
The Toolkit launch event was a major public success, attended by over 200 senior legal aid lawyers, law students, paralegals, PRLP staff, civil society organization members, and USAID representatives and publicized on the US Embassy website and in the Myanmar Times. Speaking at the launch event, USAID Myanmar Mission Director Teresa McGhie praised the Toolkit as an important resource that, “will strengthen the quality of legal aid services and improve access to justice in Myanmar." PRLP has prepared both Myanmar and English language versions of the Toolkit, including templates for commonly used forms, which will be distributed to legal aid providers in conjunction with planned Toolkit trainings in the coming year.
Legal aid in Myanmar is at an important stage of development, with the Government of Myanmar having recently enacted a Legal Aid Law, communities and individuals learning about the availability of legal aid, and legal aid providers perfecting the skills they need to serve their clients. PRLP’s Legal Aid Toolkit is an important contribution prepared with the goal of educating and assisting Myanmar's legal aid providers during this exciting period.