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Successful Reform Efforts Underway in the Russian Far East

May 2008

The Vladivostok office of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has launched several successful initiatives over the past few months with USAID support.  Having the advantage of being a small office in the biggest and one of the most progressive cities of the Russian Far East (RFE), the office has managed a series of innovative projects that have created avenues for legal and social progress. These include a sex-trafficking training and law school curriculum, a traveling lawyers program, a jury trial training, and a human rights law conference.

In August 2007, the ABA conducted a training with consular officers about sex trafficking.  The goal was to train personnel who issue visas about characteristics of trafficking and what action to take.  The pilot training was then revised and packaged as a stand alone training which any consular office could do in any country with the addition of local information and resources.  Additionally, a sex trafficking curriculum for law students was developed and is currently being taught by four Russian professors at the Far Eastern State University in Vladivostok.  After being tested in spring 2008, it will be revised and made into a stand alone curriculum with teaching methods, interactive techniques, audio visual aids, and evaluation materials and marketed to other universities.

The traveling lawyers program, while not a new concept, is one way to disseminate resources throughout the vast RFE.  After intensive training of local lawyers, the program rolled out in December 2007 with its first two day program in a nearby city of Nakhodka.  Trainings then followed in Ussuriisk and Khabarovsk in spring 2008.   The program has several goals:  developing experienced trainers in the RFE, training lawyers in the regions about Gender Based Violence with very practical legal education, developing a pro bono culture, giving free consultations to victims and meeting with local officials.  While the first three goals have been met, the last two remain elusive.  The infrastructure for grass roots participation does not exist and though the program has strong ties to the Ombudsman’s and social services offices in the regions, other sectors of government have been less responsive. 

As jury trials are fairly new to the RFE, another goal of the ABA program in Vladivostok has been to increase the skills of lawyers in this arena.  The ABA has undertaken a series of seminars focusing specifically on certain skills such as strategic planning, opening and closing statements, and direct- and cross-examination to strengthen and deepen the skills of the local defense bar. 

In February, in collaboration with the Pacific Ocean State Economics University, the ABA hosted the first ever human rights and law conference in Vladivostok.  February also saw the beginning of a new collaboration with IREX to bring public awareness to college level students on domestic violence, child abuse and sex trafficking. A series of two-day seminars have been held in Khabarovsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii with 30 to 35 students.  As a testament to the quality of the ABA Vladivostok programming, both students and professors have praised the content and method of delivery of the material, which is rarely discussed but sorely needed in their education.