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Anti-Corruption efforts by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative has focused on prevention mechanisms by fostering a more open and accountable government to its citizens. To this end, ROLI participates in activities that help to ensure that judges and prosecutors who are charged with administering justice do so in a way that is professionally and ethically responsible. By providing technical assistance to the drafting committees of the Prosecutors’ Association of Serbia and the Judges’ Association of Serbia, ROLI has been working with the internal Ethics Councils of these groups in their efforts to codify a professional code of conduct and disciplinary provisions.
In addition to work with prosecutors and judges in the area of anti-corruption, ROLI continues its work on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). ROLI recently released an assessment of Serbian FOIA law, “Law on Free Access to Information – Analysis of the Law and its Implementation in Practice”, and held media conferences in Belgrade and Niš to publicize the assessment. ROLI expects that the assessment will be the basis for future reform efforts to be undertaken when the political situation has improved.
ROLI also continues to sponsor activities that bring public attention to FOIA. On September 28, 2007, ROLI sponsored the 2nd Annual International Right to Know Day event in Belgrade. For the second year in a row, ROLI joined forces with Serbia’s Public Information Commissioner to sponsor this worldwide celebration that aims to promote the fundamental right of the public to have access to information held by their governments. The Belgrade ceremony was simultaneously broadcast through direct video link in Niš, Serbia. Volunteers in Niš, Novi Sad, and Belgrade distributed FOIA leaflets, t-shirts and FOIA how-to guides to Serbian citizens throughout the day. T-shirts and leaflets were emblazoned with a cartoon by a well-known Serbian artist and contained the statement, “Enough of this! I have the right to know.”
Finally, ROLI maintains its historical partnership with the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and funds this organization to provide trainings for Public Information Officers of judges, prosecutors and magistrates throughout the country and within government Ministries on FOIA compliance. With ROLI’s support, the Belgrade Center for Human Rights will continue to provide trainings and organize outreach events for specific sectors of the public, such as journalists and non-governmental organizations, who may use FOIA to gain access to important government information.
Continuing Legal Education
The Continuing Legal Education program focuses on providing quality training programs for judges, magistrates, prosecutors and members of local Serbian bar associations. Due to recently passed legislation, lawyers in many fields have been required to change the fundamental way they perform their functions. To ensure that the legal community is properly trained to understand and adapt to the new legislative and institutional reforms within the judiciary, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative has conducted a series of continuing legal education seminars.
Recent highlights and future plans for the ROLI Continuing Legal Education program include the following:
Alternative Dispute Resolution: ROLI continues to promote the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Serbia as an important mechanism to reduce court backlogs and to provide citizens with a more efficient resolution of their disputes. Judges in particular must have an understanding of mediation in order to support its use in their courts and refer cases when appropriate.
Since June 2006, ROLI held one-day Introduction to Mediation courses for judges in eight Serbian municipalities. Over 150 judges participated in the training and workshops, which included a presentation by ROLI staff attorney and mediation-specialist, Jelena Arsic, on mediation styles and techniques.
Since September 2006, ROLI also held introduction to mediation seminars for lawyers in five Serbian municipalities. Over 130 attorneys participated in the seminars, which included a presentation by ROLI Senior Legal Counsel and Deputy Country Director, Blazo Nedic, on advantages of mediation for attorneys and their clients.
Beginning in March 2007, continued its mediation training efforts by partnering with the Judges’ Association of Serbia to hold the first two-day “Families in Divorce and Mediation” training in Zlatibor. These trainings continued in April and May for over 100 judges throughout Serbia.
At all of these seminars, ROLI showed its mediation training video and provided a copy of its mediation bench book to all participants.
Having laid the groundwork for the legal community to better understand and support the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution, ROLI has now focused its outreach activities on users of commercial ADR services such as insurance companies and banks, to educate them on the benefits of resolving their legal disputes through mediation. CEELI has coordinated closely with the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) and has planned outreach trainings for insurance companies and banks focusing on the benefits of mediation for insurance disputes.
Criminal Procedure Code: Prosecutors in Serbia have a new Criminal Procedure Code. While the effective date for the new Code is still unclear, it represents a dramatic departure from the old code and requires prosecutors to assume a new role and method of operation. Under the new code, prosecutors are now charged with conducting investigations – a role historically assigned to investigative judges. During the past year, ROLI has responded to the needs of prosecutors for training in order to implement the new code. In late 2006 and early 2007, ROLI developed a series of three-day training courses with the PAS and trained a total of 415 prosecutors (well over 50% of total prosecutors throughout Serbia) on topics as DNA analysis, narcotics analysis, interrogation techniques, crime scene investigation, plea bargaining, and the new role of prosecutors in investigations.
In June 2007, ROLI partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Serbian Judicial Training Center to begin its second round of Criminal Procedure Code training. In June and September, two-day trainings were held in Belgrade and Novi Sad, respectively, and prosecutors and policemen were trained on the new Criminal Procedure Code, the changing role of the prosecutor, and cooperation with the Police. ROLI also coordinated with the Department of Justice to host a Roundtable on Cooperation with the Police in Belgrade and Novi Sad. The Roundtable was a forum for prosecutors and police from Belgrade to exchange their experiences regarding cooperation based on the new Criminal Procedure Code and address potential issues and problems that could occur during the implementation period.
Magistrate Training: Magistrates in Serbia face numerous procedural and institutional changes in the near future. A new Misdemeanor Law is scheduled to come into effect in the near future which will integrate misdemeanor procedural law with criminal procedure law. To help support magistrates through this transition, ROLI, together with its partner the Association of Magistrates (MAS), conducted a series of one-day trainings covering a variety of topics pertaining to misdemeanor law. Topics included Felony vs. Misdemeanor, Felony vs. Economic Misdemeanor, Criminal Charges-Main Hearing, The Role of a Defense Attorney, and The Role of a Public Prosecutor in a Misdemeanor Trial and Disposition with a Claim When There Is No Open Hearing. A total of 244 magistrates were trained on the topic of the new Law on Misdemeanor.
The Legal Profession Reform program works to assist in creating a well-functioning, well-trained, independent group of judges, prosecutors, and magistrates that meet the highest standards of integrity. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s legal profession reform work involves capacity-building and technical assistance to its partnering organizations: the Judges’ Association of Serbia (JAS), the Prosecutors’ Association of Serbia (PAS) and Magistrates’ Association of Serbia (MAS).
Much of ROLI’s recent legal profession reform efforts have been directed toward implementing legislation for a new Constitution that Serbian voters adopted in October 2006. A flood of working groups and legislative drafting committees are working to comply with the timeframe established in the Law on the Implementation of the Constitution. ROLI has focused its efforts on providing support predominantly for the laws regulating the status of judges and prosecutors by offering technical assistance to its local partners and coordinating with other donors to help promote effective operational structures and policies to ensure an independent judiciary in Serbia.
Recent highlights and future plans include the following:
Technical Assistance and Roundtable Discussions on the PAS Draft Law: Throughout 2007, ROLI has supported the working group for the Prosecutors’ Association of Serbia (PAS) Draft Law on the Public Prosecutor’s Office by providing technical assistance in the form of comparative materials and comments on the provisions proposed by PAS. The PAS completed its Draft Law and ROLI then shifted its focus to target the efforts of the PAS to harmonize their draft law with a draft law created by the Republic Public Prosecutors’ Office (RPPO). For the purpose of facilitating the harmonization process, ROLI produced and provided representatives of both PAS and the RPPO with an analysis of differences between the two draft Laws on Public Prosecutors’ Office. ROLI was also particularly engaged in development of the section regarding disciplinary responsibility by giving comments and input throughout the drafting process.
On June 25 in Belgrade City Hall, ROLI facilitated a roundtable to present the harmonized draft Laws on the Public Prosecutor's Office and the State Prosecutorial Council. The roundtable was an opportunity to present the participants (representatives of the prosecution service, the judiciary, and other experts in the field) with the proposed draft law and the rationale behind the decision-making, with the aim of providing the optimum proposed solution of the legislative framework for the work of the public prosecution service in Serbia.
ROLI’s support to the various drafting groups working on the Laws on the Public Prosecutor’s Office paid off with a broadly-supported, solid draft ready for submission to the Parliament.
Technical Assistance and Lobbying Efforts for JAS Draft Law on Disciplinary Rules: ROLI is assisting the JAS in drafting and promoting a comprehensive set of disciplinary rules and provisions, to be proposed as future legislation. With ROLI support, the JAS is lobbying for a fully independent judiciary in the new Serbian constitution. ROLI assisted the JAS in organizing a series of roundtables on the constitutional foundation of the independence of the judiciary, from which the JAS has taken recommendations and put together a working draft for submission to the parliament.
ROLI is currently offering financial and technical assistance to a JAS working group which is drafting and proposing new solutions for the set of judicial laws (Law on Judges, Law on High Judicial Council, Law on Organization of Courts) and the new court network.
Recently, ROLI sponsored the JAS-organized International Conference on the Independence of the Judiciary and Challenges of Transition at the Belgrade Palace of Justice. The conference was organized to offer a forum for exchange of experiences of judges and prosecutors from transitional countries and judges and prosecutors from MEDEL, the Association of European Judges and Prosecutors. Topics of the conference included the issue of international standards for judges and prosecutors in a democratic society and the importance of the role of judges and prosecutors for the independence of the judiciary. More than 100 representatives of professional associations of judges and prosecutors participated in this conference from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, as well as members of MEDEL from Belgium, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Germany, Poland, Portugal, France, Czech Republic, and Spain. During the third day of the conference, the JAS and PAS had the opportunity to present their drafts of the new laws on judges and prosecutors and to discuss solutions and basic principles for the new judicial laws with the international experts present from MEDEL.a working group to consider and revise their draft Law on Judges, and to conduct a series of regional events with their members to discuss and refine the final draft.
National Judicial Reform Strategy Commission: The Commission for the Implementation of the National Judicial Reform Strategy (NJRS) appointed a working group in November 2006 to draft basic principles for the development of systemic laws regulating the organization of the judiciary and the status of judges and prosecutors in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution and the Judicial Reform Strategy. At the request of the Commission, ROLI has been providing technical assistance and financial support to the working group with regard to developing a new court network and identifying selection and performance evaluation criteria for judges and is coordinating with the international expert provided to the working group directly by USAID.
Capacity Building: ROLI continues to support the JAS and the PAS in their capacity-building efforts. ROLI and the JAS have had a long-standing partnership since 1997, during which ROLI has provided technical, financial, administrative, logistical and other kinds of support to numerous JAS projects. On June 23, the JAS held its Annual Assembly to commemorate the JAS 10th Anniversary. The Assembly took place at the Palace of Justice in Belgrade and approximately 160 participants, including members of the JAS and other domestic and international guests, attended. As a show of appreciation to ROLI’s capacity building support over the years, JAS president Dragana Boljevic handed out a special award to ROLI Regional Director, Robert Lochary, and to Jan Emmert from USAID. This event was co-sponsored by ROLI with significant in-kind contribution by the JAS.
Judicial Training Center: ROLI and the JAS were central to the creation of the new Serbian Judicial Training Center, which was co-founded by the Ministry of Justice. ROLI helped the Judicial Training Center complete a strategic plan and will continue to provide technical assistance for its organizational development.
Young Legal Professionals Development is vital to the future of legal reform and rule of law development in Serbia and the ABA Rule of Law Initiative has focused its efforts on improving the legal education system. In 2003, Serbia formally joined the Bologna Process, a Europe-wide initiative to create uniformity among academic degrees and quality assurance. Compliance with the Bologna Process has been mandated by the Serbian Law on Education and all universities must be in compliance by September 2007. ROLI is dedicated to helping Serbian law schools improve their curriculum as well as comply with the requirements of the Bologna Process, including the need to incorporate more practical training for law students.
To support the development of young legal professionals, ROLI sponsors the following programs:
Court Internship Program: In 2004, with ROLI support, the Young Lawyers of Serbia (YLS) created a Court Internship Program (CIP) which provides law students with a two week practicum in the Serbian courts taught by Serbian judges and court staff. The program involves several distinct phases over a two-week period and is intended to supplement a theory-focused law school curriculum. Students are first assigned to a judge and a courtroom, where they watch real trials and meet with the judge informally to discuss the pending case. During this phase, students visit the court archives to understand the practical daily functions of the court staff. Next, students tour the prison to speak with prison personnel, police officers, and prisoners to gain insight into the criminal law process. During week two, students perform a courtroom simulation exercise and assume the roles of judge, prosecutor, lawyer, and defendant in a trial. In advance of the simulation exercise, students are presented with a fact scenario and asked to develop a courtroom strategy to advocate their positions. Judges observe the simulations and critique the participants. Finally, the students participate in a closing ceremony and receive diplomas signifying their participation in the program.
To date, more than 1700 Serbian law school students from Belgrade, Niš, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Novi Pazar and Vranje have participated in the program.
Recently, ROLI brokered an important agreement with the Novi Sad, Belgrade State, Belgrade Union, and Kragujevac law schools to ensure that the CIP will be adopted into the core curriculum. As an important step towards full sustainability of the CIP, it was agreed that the YLS, the Law Schools and the Courts will take responsibility for the precise elements of the CIP program and that YLS will manage the program. From November 2007, Serbian law schools are fully funding the Court Internship Program.
Family Law Clinics: In 2007, to further promote compliance with the Bologna Process, ROLI began supporting a family law clinical program at the Belgrade Union Law School. ROLI staff provided assistance to the law school in designing clinic curriculum, a manual for students and other relevant materials needed for the first clinical course to start during the 2007-2008 fall semester. Currently, students are being trained by various family law practitioners, i.e., judges, attorneys, experts from centers for social work, before they begin consulting and performing services for real clients at the beginning of 2008. With a strong history in supporting clinical law programs and a particular expertise in developing clinics within law schools in the region, ROLI is proud of this new opportunity to support the development of young legal professionals in Serbia.
The Bar Development program has found a natural ally with the various bar associations in Serbia. Although the institutional culture of the bar associations in Serbia has been slow to assume a pro-active role in the education of the legal profession, Rule of Law Initiative’s bar development program has focused its efforts on regional bar associations that have demonstrated real interest and enthusiasm for ROLI-sponsored training programs.
A sampling of the current and upcoming ROLI bar development projects are listed below:
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): During 2007, ROLI has worked with the Niš and Cačak Bar Associations to conduct seven one-day courses entitled Introduction to Mediation for attorneys throughout Serbia. ROLI Staff Attorney Jelena Arsic introduced participants to the basic principles of the mediation process and the role of the mediator while ROLI Deputy Country Director Blazo Nedic discussed the advantages of mediation for attorneys and their clients. The ROLI Mediation Benchbook was adapted for lawyers and disseminated to all participants. The ROLI Mediation Training Video was also used during the trainings.
Criminal Procedure Code (CPC): Since defense attorneys will also be affected by the new Criminal Procedure Code in Serbia, ROLI has begun conducting training for this audience. Together with the Niš and Cačak Bar Associations, three separate trainings were conducted for private attorneys in the Niš and Cačak area. The CPC training for attorneys covered an overview of the most relevant aspects of the new Code, with a brief presentation of plea bargaining and a lecture on the role of public prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Citizen Assistance Centers: ROLI has begun working with local bar associations to provide legal assistance to small businesses in the municipalities of Vranje and Indjija. ROLI will work with bar associations to develop training materials and conduct seminars for businesses and then generate a legal resource center for future Citizen Assistance Center users.
E-Learning Program: In 2007, ROLI plans to unveil an e-learning continuing legal education pilot project in partnership with the Niš Bar Association. For this project, ROLI will work with members of the Niš Bar Association to develop continuing legal education materials for legal trainees. Through software that is currently being developed, these materials will be available to members of the Niš Bar on the internet.
Representation before the European Court of Human Rights: Together with the Niš Bar Association, ROLI is preparing to implement a specialized CLE program for practicing attorneys on the Practical Aspects of Representation before the European Court of Human Rights. Six two-day training sessions for a selected group of 25 attorneys from the area served by the Niš Bar Association are slated to begin in November 2007.