USAID ProJustice Project is helping improve access to legal and judicial services for people with disabilities in Côte d’Ivoire
Although Côte d’Ivoire signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and ratified it in 2014, little progress has been made. Legislative changes are needed to incorporate the convention’s requirements in national legislation and institutions must be established. In 2015, the government announced its intention to recruit 300 persons with disabilities into the Ivoirian national civil service but no other developments have taken place. Several civil society organizations representing persons with disabilities have been advocating for a more ambitious reform program, and USAID’s support has come at an opportune time. On November 24-25, 2015, ProJustice organized a two-day conference in Abidjan to discuss implementation of the CRPD in Côte d’Ivoire. Several international and national experts delivered keynote presentations on the requirements of the convention and provided comparative perspectives. Attendees discussed Côte d’Ivoire’s past efforts and the way forward.
The conference took place under the auspices of ProJustice Handicap, a new component of Tt DPK’s Justice Sector Support Program (ProJustice) focused on increasing access to justice for people with disabilities. Since 2013, ProJustice has been working to improve the functioning of the justice system and increase access to justice, and the disability component was added in 2015.
Photo (L):ProJustice Project Chief of Party, Daniel Dobrovoljec, welcomes attendees to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities two-day conference
Photo (R):The representative of the Speaker of Côte d’Ivoire’s National Assembly speaking at the conference on the UN Convention on Persons With Disabilities, with sign language interpreter at left
“Nothing about us, without us!” – the slogan of the American civil rights movement for people with disabilities – became the motto of the conference, signaling the enthusiasm of the participants and reflecting the importance of the disability community being closely consulted and fully involved in the design and implementation of all plans and agendas to address their needs (see photo below).
The conference resulted in an impressive agenda that includes the establishment of a national commission to be chaired by the prime minister to monitor progress made at realizing the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as the preparation of legislation to implement the provisions of the UN Convention at national and sub-national levels. Conference attendees included the Minister of Social Affairs representing the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the National Assembly, reflecting a burgeoning interest in top levels of government in the rights of persons with disabilities. At the closing ceremony, the Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Social Affairs praised the organizers and the participants for their ambitious agenda. “We must be ambitious,” he said, “as the challenge is so important.”
The US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the US Security Coordinator developed a joint Law Enforcement Case Management and Information Sharing Initiative (Epsilon-P) to enhance PASF operations and improve overall security and rule of law in the West Bank. Tetra Tech is assisting with implementation of Epsilon-P under its INL-funded Justice Sector Assistance Project IV (JSAP) in the West Bank, working in partnership with the Public Leadership Institute, a US-based organization with extensive experience developing cross-agency information sharing systems.
Epsilon-P will enable four PASF agencies – the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP), District Coordination Office (DCO), Civil Defense, and Presidential Guard – to access the cumulative knowledge of all PASF agencies operating in the West Bank for the first time, facilitating better use of investigative information about crimes, suspects, and arrests.
Up till now, the PASF have had limited capacity for information sharing, which hampers investigations and case processing. When Epsilon-P is fully operational, it will dramatically reduce the time spent by law enforcement personnel on routine data entry. More broadly, the automation will improve operations as varied as issuing warrants, collecting evidence, using force, and managing informants. Epsilon-P will also help managers formulate more effective crime strategies and will facilitate cooperative investigations.
Leaders from the participating PASF agencies have expressed enthusiasm about Epsilon-P. Col. Aniss Kishko, head of the DCO Planning and Development Unit, stated: "The DCO hopes that the Epsilon initiative will help complete the technological development that the DCO has been aspiring to achieve. This technology will save us time, effort, and cost, as well as provide efficient access to data processing. Sharing data and documents with other security agencies participating in this program will enhance the capacity of law enforcement to combat criminal activities."
To create buy-in, Tetra Tech has led a series of meetings with the PASF agencies. Among the outcomes was the establishment of the Epsilon Leadership Council, an implementing authority that will ensure coordination and information sharing as Epsilon-P is rolled out. The council elected PCP Col. Suliman Al-Khatib to serve as chairman. As Epsilon-P develops and expands, additional PASF agencies are expected to join the initiative, moving toward the eventual creation of a case management and information sharing system for all of the West Bank.
One of the objectives of Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting Justice Project (PROJUST) in Mexico is to fight gender-based violence (GBV), including through outreach and training. From July to October 2015, PROJUST offered a diploma course entitled “Victims of Gender Violence in the New Criminal Justice System in Mexico” to the staff of Women’s Justice Centers (WJCs) in the cities of Campeche and Torreon. WJCs work to improve access to justice for victims of GBV and reduce violence toward women and girls.
Although only adults were enrolled in the course, an 11-year-old boy became a surprise participant and fervent advocate for non-violence. Tadeo had tagged along with his mother to the Torreon classes because of a lack of child care, but he became so interested in the subject matter that he made sure not to miss a single day. Declaring that "any type of violence is not good," Tadeo vowed to promote a culture of respect for and non-violence against women.
Not long after Tadeo began attending the course, one of his schoolmates confided in him that his father beat his mother. Tadeo immediately related what he had learned about the WJC and the fight against GBV. With Tadeo’s help, the schoolmate convinced his mother to visit the Torreon WJC, where she soon began receiving assistance and support.
Thirty-one women and 2 men received certificates of completion at the closing ceremony for the Torreon course. Tadeo was surprised and pleased to receive a symbolic certificate as well. PROJUST is continuing offer the diploma course at other WJCs, hoping to inspire more men, women, and youths like Tadeo to join the fight against GBV.
Under the USAID-funded Pro-Integridad project in Peru, Tetra Tech partnered with the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (IDEHPUCP) to develop a specialized diploma course on how to handle corruption cases.
The diploma course was delivered in the cities of Chachapoyas, Iquitos, Lima, and Tarapoto. The president of the Assembly of Prosecutors of Amazonas, Oswaldo Bautista, stated: "This is the first time that such a training has been conducted in Chachapoyas, with very prepared professors and an excellent method of training, who came here to share their knowledge."
The specialized course strengthened the capacity of justice system officers to process corruption cases. To foster sustainability, national counterparts will continue delivering the training to judges and prosecutors after Pro-Integridad ends. To that end, the Academy of the Magistracy (AMAG) and IDEHPUCP signed an agreement to jointly present the diploma course for 29 more judges and prosecutors from Lima and Callao. AMAG intends to incorporate this diploma course permanently into its training programs.
Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PLRP) in Myanmar works with various government and civil society partners to preserve and protect the legal rights of women and other gender identity groups in the country and encourage their participation in public policy dialogue. PRLP’s civil society organization (CSO) partners are implementing activities in education, direct legal services, and advocacy on the legal rights of women, children, and LGBT people.
In the Yangon area, the Ratana Metta Organization leads community talks to educate youths about important issues such as domestic violence, drug use, employment, human rights, and criminal justice. The organization also hosts community legal and human rights awareness workshops for women to learn about child protection, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention, and access to court services. In select cases, Ratana Metta represents women and children in need of legal aid free of charge.
The Karenni National Women's Organization operates a safe house in Kayah State for survivors of GBV; educates and deploys field trainers to raise GBV awareness among thousands of villagers; and lobbies local and national government officials for effective GBV-related laws.
In Bago, Mon, and Yangon, Equality Myanmar/Colours Rainbow documents cases and provides legal assistance to hundreds of LGBT victims of harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment. The organization brings these cases to the attention of an LGBT lawyer network and other bodies for further representation. Equality Myanmar/Colours Rainbow combines grassroots human rights education and awareness raising with political advocacy, calling on senior officials to end institutionalized LGBT discrimination.
At the national level, the PRLP is enabling its CSO partners to engage in public consultations and shape Myanmar's forthcoming law on violence against women. Following the country’s recent ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the project is supporting the CSO CEDAW Action Myanmar by directly conducting focus groups and data collection.
By supporting women and vulnerable groups to improve awareness of legal rights, gain access to legal services, and voice concerns in the public policy dialogue, PRLP is increasing the level of inclusive participation in Myanmar's rule of law transformation.
The Fundasaun Fatuk Sinae Oecusse (FFSO) is one of the oldest non-profit civil society organizations in the Oecusse Region of East Timor. Founded to increase citizens’ understanding of, access to, and confidence in the justice sector, it provides free legal services and outreach programs in poor rural communities. Only a few organizations provide free legal services in Oecusse, so rural villages suffered when the FFSO was forced to reduce its staff at the close of a previous USAID access-to-justice program that ended in 2012.
Since the launch of the USAID-funded Ba Distrito (“To the Districts”) project, Tetra Tech has built a strong relationship with FFSO. Among other activities, Tetra Tech has supported FFSO in conducting legal outreach sessions for more than 400 Timorese citizens.
Tetra Tech’s recent support has been critical. FFSO director Antonio dos Remedios explained: "Because there are only a few organizations that provide such services to the poor and vulnerable, our partnership with USAID-funded Ba Distrito project is fundamentally valuable because it ensures that the poor and vulnerable people living in the rural villages can also have access to justice through access to free legal aid assistance and legal outreach activities.”
A year after criminal justice reforms were introduced in Mexico, journalists had a limited understanding of the changes, even in states where the reform process was more advanced. Recognizing the critical role of journalists in fostering the necessary cultural change to accompany the reforms, Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded PROJUST project is implementing an extensive training program for journalists, editors, and chief information officers across the country on the new laws.
Working closely with the Government of Mexico’s Technical Secretariat for the Implementation of the Criminal System (SETEC), PROJUST has provided key training to communications professionals from media outlets in 16 Mexican states to date. In one of the workshops, “How to Report Under the New Criminal Justice System,” journalist and instructor Omar Sánchez de Tagle explained that reporters now respect the rights of all involved in criminal proceedings. For example, as the head of SETEC in Hidalgo State explained: "In local newspapers such as El Sol de Hidalgo, the one with the highest circulation, I saw that articles being published are already implementing the suggestions from the workshops. For instance, they now obscure the faces of the people appearing in photographs [to protect their privacy].” He went on to state that in his view, Tetra Tech’s workshops for journalists have perceptibly affected news stories around the country.
Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded ProJustice program is working to improve the administration of justice in Côte d'Ivoire by strengthening the capacity of magistrates, court staff, and judicial police officers (JPOs) in 11 pilot courts. To build this capacity and enable the National Institute of Judicial Training (INFJ) to train even more magistrates and JPOs, ProJustice implemented a train-the-trainer (TOT) program to identify and train justice sector personnel.
An international expert trained a first group of magistrates and JPOs to become trainers, conveying such concepts as creating team spirit among participants, establishing rules for communication, and managing time effectively. This group went on to train a second group of trainers, who in turn have put their training into practice by leading ProJustice's joint training program for magistrates and JPOs in the project's 11 pilot courts. With their assistance, the project has trained over 300 magistrates and JPOs.
Participants have uniformly complimented ProJustice on the quality and utility of the training sessions, particularly for jointly training magistrates and JPOs to improve their communication and collaboration. Asked for her impressions, Magistrate Noëlle Angeline Petey said she particularly appreciated the design of the training kit which contains several teaching methods. “It ranged from … theoretical lesson[s to] practical case scenarios …. The training I received from ProJustice allowed me to enhance my teaching skills."
With support from this expanded pool of trainers, ProJustice next designed new training kits for use in the INFJ's continuing education program. ProJustice also developed a TOT manual for use by the INFJ. In addition to promoting the sustainability of the ProJustice training program, by expanding the number of trainers Tetra Tech’s TOT methodology is expected to enable more widespread training of magistrates and JPOs in the Ivoirian judicial system.
Tetra Tech’s Pro-Integridad project in Peru has helped the government address one of the biggest challenges in corruption cases: how to calculate the damages due from persons convicted of crimes against the public administration where there is no quantifiable financial loss. The project worked with the Prosecutor’s Office Specialized in Anti-Corruption to develop a methodology for calculating civil damages in such cases. The methodology uses records in the Public Attorney's database going back to 2000, including on the amounts defrauded, the rank of the officials in question, and the level of media exposure. This information is fed into an IT tool, or simulator, which calculates damages owed to the state on a case-by-case basis.
Anti-corruption attorneys’ offices have installed the calculation tool on their systems and have been trained on its use. Dr. Percy Capillo López, anticorruption prosecutor in San Martin, stated that "the simulator will help the state attorneys to better argue and support the requests for civil damages before judges so that the amounts recognized in favor of the State are realistic and proportionate to the harm caused."
A new Law on Criminal Procedure (LCP) in the Republic of Macedonia transformed criminal procedures in the country. Recognizing the enormous changes in criminal procedures wrought by the LCP, the Rule of Law Council (ROLC) (an informal platform of civil society organizations and legal professional associations) recognized the urgent need to inform citizens about their rights and obligations under the new law. Tetra Tech’s Judicial Strengthening Project, which had supported the establishment of the ROLC, pledged to support its public outreach activities.
The ROLC first conducted a public awareness campaign on the LCP on a number of communication channels. Three video spots targeted potential victims, criminals, witnesses, and legal practitioners. Each spot conveyed its message by using examples of everyday family situations to demonstrate the new roles Macedonians might find themselves in under the new criminal procedure rules. In addition, ROLC printed brochures for the general public and for the legal community and distributed them to every court, public prosecution office, and detention center in Macedonia.
During the awareness-raising campaign, 66.4% of the target group (18-35 year olds) saw the television spot more than once, while 38.1% saw it more than three times. The campaign's Facebook page had 3,510 fans and 3,926 “Likes”, the television spot posted on Facebook reached 392,472 people, and the web page received 7,625 views. These numbers clearly demonstrate that a significant number of citizens were exposed to the campaign message and gained knowledge of their rights and obligations under the new LCP.