ISLP has joined Global Rights in a project to help build the skills of legal aid providers in Burundi, Nigeria and Uganda so that they can more effectively use strategic litigation to challenge systemic impunity by the state in cases of gross human rights violations. ISLP volunteers Steven Goldberg and Jean-Louis Libert traveled to Bujumbura, Burundi in mid-June to help facilitate, together with lawyers from Gambia, Kenya, and South Africa, the first of two workshops planned for 2012.
Jean-Claude Libert, a criminal lawyer from Belgium with 35 years of experience, first traveled to Burundi in April to meet with Global Rights' local partners there. He is providing ongoing mentoring to lawyers in French-speaking Burundi, as well as assisting with implementation of the workshops. Steve Goldberg, a senior civil rights attorney from Portland, OR landed in Burundi in June after several months of long-distance coaching and preparation. During his two weeks onsite, he workshopped ongoing cases, addressed legal challenges and strategies and led a training session on client-centered litigation and case-handling methods that engaged participants in a series of 'hands-on' exercises.
"This is obviously an extraordinarily ambitious program," he said. "You are educating people about international law, you are getting them to think about how to apply principles underlying that body of law in their own countries to specific legal problems, and how to do that strategically."
"The skills part of the training has been useful on several levels. It has made people think about the practicalities of doing this work: When working with communities, how do legal issues get defined; how does the lawyer avoid letting his or her own biases define the work as opposed to the people he's representing; who is the client when dealing with groups of people; how do you create trust with your clients to facilitate disclosure of the facts you need to litigate; how can the work be done in such a way that empowers the client… People have been actively involved, willing to participate in role-plays, filled with questions and comments...The participants in the workshop were amazing people: so committed, bright, willing to take significant risks challenging their various governments in cases of human rights violations."
Steve came away from the experienced convinced that the project was building lasting legal skills that will have long-term impact on strengthening participation in rule of law: “It gives you a perspective on governments and the importance of people being willing to challenge governments, and to understand what principles are really important.”
Using the knowledge and skills gained through this workshop, Global Rights' partners will continue to initiate cases in the national courts in Burundi, Nigeria, and Uganda seeking accountability and combating impunity.
"I left Africa with a sense of perspective that change takes time. I also have optimism about the future given the amazing people I met." - Steven Goldberg, Attorney at Law"
In support of this program, Global Rights also requested briefing papers on: (i) the applicability and scope of the state duty to investigate human rights violations; and (ii) fair hearing guarantees in civil and administrative proceedings, with the analyses set forth in both briefing papers tailored to the African regional and particular national contexts. A team of lawyers from the global law firm Blakes delivered a briefing paper regarding the duty to investigate in January 2012 and a French translation of the briefing paper in February 2012. A team of lawyers from the global law firm Covington & Burling delivered the briefing paper regarding fair hearing guarantees in March 2012 and assisted Global Rights in preparing training materials based on the findings in both briefing papers.