Since 2009, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has worked to make consolidated free legal aid available for the socially vulnerable in the Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg-Leningrad and Ulyanovsk regions. In partnership with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, bar chambers and law firms, ABA ROLI has created systematized networks that provide free legal service in civil cases. To bolster the free legal aid networks (FLANs), we have trained lawyers on client-centered approach, gender sensitivity, addressing special needs of severely traumatized clients, and interviewing and counseling skills to help them better serve their indigent clients. The president of the Russian Federal Bar Chamber has since described the FLANs as the best and most effective free legal-aid mechanisms in the country.
Over the past two years, the networks have assisted more than 2,200 people in cases related to domestic violence, disability rights, housing disputes and public benefits.
To address the rising problem of xenophobia and racism in Russia, ABA ROLI—with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor—in November 2012 concluded a multi-faceted program to strengthen hate-crime prosecution, increase victim protection and foster public awareness of and tolerance for minority populations. The program facilitated multi-sector cooperation, supported governmental and non-governmental stakeholders and developed specialized resources and training programs to enhance enforcement of relevant laws.
To address the causes of xenophobia and racism, we implemented programs targeting youth. ABA ROLI developed anti-xenophobia curricula for high school and university students, and is also finalizing a similar curriculum for grade-school students. We trained advocates who represent hate-crime victims and provided them with resources, including a handbook for law enforcement officers and advocates on assisting hate-crime victims. Additionally, we published more than 10,000 Know Your Rights brochures, addressing rights of migrants, foreign students, and religious and other minority populations, in Russian, Uzbek and Tajik.
According to the Federal Ombudsman’s Office of the Russian Federation, the program provides ombudsmen with information that helps them provide migrant workers with guidance on combatting employment discrimination and obtaining documents that allow them to work legally.
In December 2012 with funding from the British Embassy, we launched a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community Empowerment program. The program empowers LGBT organizations by bringing together LGBT activists, human rights defenders and journalists to jointly develop strategies for combatting discrimination and violence, including the use of new media, alliance networks and regional NGO coordination. ABA ROLI is also developing trainings to help lawyers effectively represent LGBT clients, creating know-your-rights materials for print and online distribution, and providing expertise and resources to help LGBT organizations build capacity and navigate newly passed legislation.
Corruption remains pervasive throughout the Russian Federation, and continues to be a major obstacle to advancing the rule of law and democracy. In 2008, Russia adopted two federal anti-corruption laws, which mandate that every region in Russia pass local anti-corruption legislation and develop an anti-corruption implementation strategy. However, the implementation of local strategies remains inconsistent. ABA ROLI, with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, works to combat corruption in Russia through an innovative, bottom-up approach that builds anti-corruption momentum at the local level.
ABA ROLI launched its municipal anti-corruption program in 2006, surveying select cities and regions to assess the level and types of local corruption. ABA ROLI developed targeted anti-corruption training programs addressing the needs of each of six regions: Pskov, Omsk, Perm, Yaroslavl, Rostov and Kamchatskiy, Smolensk, Kaliningrad, Tobulsk and Ulyanvosk. The trainings provided local officials and businessmen with a comprehensive overview of criminal and municipal anti-corruption laws and allowed them to identify gaps in local legislation. Following the training sessions, ABA ROLI establishes informal regional expert groups to develop anti-corruption legislation for their respective regions.
Additionally, we assisted in the development of a long-term anti-corruption strategy for Opochka District in Pskov. In January 2010, the district administration adopted the strategy, which includes a code of ethics for local officials. The Pskov regional anti-corruption program, which was approved on May 25, 2010, incorporated a significant portion of the provisions included in the Opochka anti-corruption strategy. While we continue to support the Opochka District in pursuing its anti-corruption goals, we are also assisting four other regions—Smolensk, Kaliningrad, Tobulsk and Ulyanvosk—in developing similar strategies.
ABA ROLI continues to implement sustainable, community-supported programs to fight corruption. Most recently, ABA ROLI created an innovative social media campaign, encouraging high-profile officials and businesses take a public anti-bribery pledge. We also hosted a competition and training for journalists exposing corruption in their regions and collaborated with municipal governments to develop and implement research-based anti-corruption strategies.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) Criminal Law Program in Russia focuses on strengthening the capacity of legal professionals and institutions to uphold the right to due process within the criminal law system.
ABA ROLI trains and supports defense attorneys to enhance representation for criminal defendants as well as for victims. On July 1, 2002, Russia adopted a new Code of Criminal Procedure, which introduced jury trials into the criminal justice system. Since then, we have conducted hundreds of seminars on jury-trial skills for legal professionals in several cities and regions. The trainings cover jury selection, case strategy, opening and closing arguments, submitting and challenging documentary evidence and conducting direct- and cross- examinations. Mock jury trials allow trainees to practice their newly-acquired skills. Despite recent amendments to the code restricting the use of jury trials, interest in these seminars continues to grow.
Recently, ABA ROLI has begun a unique program, which focuses on building the skills of the future generation of lawyers through week-long ‘human rights schools’ for Russian and Eastern European law students and clinical law professors. The program tackles important human rights issues, such as torture; pretrial detention; freedom of speech, assembly and religion; critical thinking; and writing and oral-advocacy skills. ABA ROLI also advocates for increased emphasis on human rights in legal education.
Approximately 22% of all pending cases in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are applications from Russia. At the close of 2011, The ECtHR had delivered more than 1,200 judgments against Russia, at least half of which concerned torture and ill-treatment, violations of liberty and violations of other fair-trial rights. Russian law requires local courts to acknowledge and implement precedents set by the ECtHR. However, the absence of any centralized information source for Russian translations of ECtHR judgments and the lack of any courses either on ECtHR cases or on precedents in Russian law schools make it difficult for Russia to comply.
Since 2006, ABA ROLI has developed and implemented an innovative training program on the ECtHR. Our seminars—offered to experienced advocates as well as law students—outline the procedure Russian citizens and their advocates can use to appeal to the ECtHR. The program also details methods attorneys can use to encourage application of ECtHR case law in domestic courts. During the trainings, participants work in small teams, some preparing appeals to the ECtHR based on actual cases and others working on responses on behalf of the Russian government. In 2012, ABA ROLI received more than 300 applications for the 80 slots in its human rights trainings.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) supports judicial transparency and public education about the court system by encouraging dialogue between judges and civil society members. Discussions have addressed judicial transparency and public monitoring of the judiciary. We also developed a court monitoring manual to help non-governmental organizations evaluate the fairness of local courts. Additionally, we’ve recently created a training program and curricula on judicial practical skills and ethics, and published a bench book.
A December 2010 federal law requires each Russian law school to offer students the opportunity to participate in a legal clinic. However, law schools did not have the necessary funding or curricula to provide clinicians, professors and students with training programs that could keep them up to date on the development specific substantive areas of law, practical legal skills and interactive teaching methodologies.
Having identified this need, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, conducted three week-long human rights schools for 120 law students from across Russia. The schools, which were held in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg and covered both substantive knowledge and practical skills, focused on critical thinking, legal writing and oral advocacy skills.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) uses a multi-faceted approach in working with Russia’s legal community. We work with the Federal Chamber of Advocates and regional advocates’ chambers to support the uniform application of ethical and disciplinary standards. We also work to enhance professionalism among advocates by strengthening the culture of continuing legal education (CLE) and improving the knowledge and skills of CLE providers and instructors.
Russian advocates must complete 100 hours of CLE over five years to remain licensed. Yet, there is no standardized CLE program currently in place. ABA ROLI supports continuing education courses for both new and experienced lawyers in partnership with regional bar chambers and universities to increase the professionalism and technical skills of advocates in four regions (Krasnoyarsk, Ulyanovsk, St. Petersburg and Stavropol). ABA ROLI trained a core group of trainers on interactive skills, created CLE curricula, designed and implemented a business plan for each center’s sustainability and helped each center conduct and supervise independent CLE trainings. To increase synergy between our U.S. Agency for International Development-funded and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs-funded programs, we transferred existing trainings on jury trials, evidence, the European Convention on Human Rights and victims’ rights to the centers for integration into their CLE curricula. We have trained hundreds of young lawyers on basic lawyering skills, including written and oral advocacy, and ethics, and on specialized topics, such as representing victims of hate crime.
To date, the centers have trained more than 170 advocates. A team of 36 CLE trainers ABA ROLI had previously trained on advanced adult teaching methodologies and practical legal skills now train their peers at the centers in three regions.
As part of its Free Legal Aid program in Ulyanovsk and St. Petersburg-Leningrad, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) supports a network that has provided more than 1,000 female clients with free legal assistance in domestic violence matters. We also train lawyers on working with clients who have been victims of domestic violence and other gender-based crimes.