Using the Comparative Analysis of Criminal Defense Advocacy as a baseline, the founding members of BRRLN’s network determined five key areas where defense advocacy could be improved: Legal Aid and Ex Officio Defense, Training and Education, Bar Chamber Capacity, Criminal Law and Media and Public Awareness. A working group composed of members from each of the five BRRLN countries was formed around each of these substantive areas. These groups have identified key common problems across the region and in the first year of the Network through working group meetings held in the fall of 2014 have developed proposals to address those problems. For more information about each working group, follow the links below.
The Ex Officio and Legal Aid Working Group is focused on increasing access to justice issues for citizens both when facing criminal charges and accessing the civil courts.
Legal Aid and Ex Officio Working Group, Mt. Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 3-4 October 2014
Members from the Legal Aid and Ex Officio Defense Working Group met in Mt. Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, from October 3–4 to discuss weaknesses in the legal aid systems of the region as a whole and within each country of the region, including lack of representation for vulnerable groups. The working group discussed how strategic litigation as a tool could be used to address issues with access to justice. Presentations on successfully using strategic litigation to reform the law were made by BRRLN members. (See presentation by CLARD on strategic litigation.) The group ultimately decided to conduct a regional review of the ex officio appointment systems—focusing on the competence, selection and payment of advocates—in the BRRLN’s five countries, and developing recommendations for best practices. The second phase of the project will articulate strategies within each BRRLN country to improve existing ex officio systems based on that report.
The Training and Education Working Group wants to improve training and educational opportunities for advocates and lawyer trainees that are sustainable and improve the effectiveness and capacity of the profession.
Training and Education Working Group Meeting, Durres, Albania, 7-8, November, 2014
The Training and Education Working Group meeting was held in Durres, Albania where ten members came together to discuss the lack of institutionalized training opportunities throughout the BRRLN region. Two project ideas emerged from the discussions. First, the working group determined that an assessment of Continuous Legal Education (CLE) across the region including best practices and country-specific recommendations to improve CLE would begin to address the lack of institutionalized CLE. This project will depend on cooperation with the BRRLN bar chambers and cooperation on training and CLE was therefore included as part of the BRRLN Bar MOU. The second project is to create a pilot online course for the region covering a topic of interest and applicability throughout the region. This project complements work being done by the Criminal Law Working Group to create a knowledge center for advocates in the region.
The Bar Chamber Capacity Working Group is focused on supporting bar chambers to develop their own capacity to deliver member services, serve the public and become a strong voice for advocates and citizens in the justice sector.
Bar Chamber Capacity Working Group, Prizren, Kosovo, 17-18 October, 2014
The Bar Chamber Capacity Working Group met in Prizren, Kosovo to discuss how to best strengthen the internal and external capacities of the region’s bars. The group wants to strengthen bar associations’ ability to protect members’ interests and to bolster cooperation among bar associations around issues related to larger independence, diversity in the profession and ensuring equality of arms in justice systems. The working group developed a Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a framework for formal cooperation among the bar associations in the BRRLN countries. Participants said that the framework will increase the capacity of the bar associations to cooperate on advocacy efforts and strengthen the voice of the legal profession. The MOU will also support the activities of the other BRRLN working groups. The MOU will be executed at BRRLN’s leadership conference in late March in Belgrade.
The Criminal Law Working Group wants to reform criminal law and procedure to achieve equality of arms and fair and transparent procedures that better protects citizen’s fundamental rights.
Criminal Law Working Group Meeting, Mavrovo, Macedonia, 14-15 November, 2014
The Criminal Law Working Group met in Mavrovo, Macedonia to discuss pressing issues within each country’s criminal justice system. The discussions revealed that common and disturbing problems exist across the region implicating rights to a fair trial and equality of arms. Employing a comparative approach, the Criminal Law Working Group will developing advocacy strategies on priority issues within criminal procedure codes (both in the law and in practice) across the region that violate fundamental human rights. Their goal is to reform legislation and practices by raising awareness of the unfairness in many of the new codes as written and implemented. Working Group members also wanted to develop resources for criminal law practitioners across the region and propose including an E-Resource Center for legal solutions and best practices in criminal law within the BRRLN to be hosted on the BRRLN website. The group also proposed developing on-line training modules on a common topics – also hosted on BRRLN’s site – that could be applied throughout the region.
The Media and Public Awareness Working Group wants to improve citizen’s understanding of the justice system by improving the quality of media reporting on the legal profession by strengthening relationships between journalists and advocates and fostering better understanding by each of their role in the justice system.
Media and Public Awareness Working Group Meeting, Novi Sad, Serbia, 28-29 November, 2014
On November 28- 29th, BRRLN Working Group members met in Novi Sad, Serbia to discuss problems with media reporting on legal issues and advocates and how to improve media reporting on advocates and bar chambers and relations between the two groups. Moreover, the group discussed how bar chambers could better develop media strategies to promote their institution, the profession and issues of importance to them. Part of the discussion focused on the recent protest by the Bar Association of Serbia (BAS) regarding changes in the notarial laws. BAS and other presenters discussed using the media to advance an issue with key constituents and the public. The group developed a project that will first assess advocates are portrayed in the media throughout the BRRLN region. Using the results from this survey, programs will be developed to improve media reporting and strengthen relationships between the two groups.
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