Lawyers, Prosecutors, and Judges

Lawyers, prosecutors, and judges increasingly face threats, harassment, and other forms of retaliation for defending human rights, promoting governmental accountability, and taking on sensitive cases. The Justice Defenders Program assists legal professionals by observing judicial selection and removal proceedings to ensure that they are merit-based in addition to encouraging the independence of the judiciary. We also observe disciplinary and criminal proceedings against legal professionals to ensure adherence to international standards.

Please see below for examples of our public work involving at-risk lawyers, prosectutors, and judges.


Trial Observation Report: The Case of Ny Chakyra

The Justice Defenders Program observed the trial of Mr. Ny Chakrya, the former head of Human Rights and Legal Aid section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and the former Deputy Secretary-General of the National Election Commission. Mr. Chakrya was charged with defamation, slander and interference with the independence of the judiciary because of press conferences he gave, while still with ADHOC, requesting an investigation into the Investigating Judge and Prosecutor for procedural irregularities and lack of independence. 


Observation Report on Selection of Judges in Honduras

The Justice Defenders Program observed the proceedings to select new Supreme Court magistrates in Honduras from August 2015 to January 2016 in response to concerns that the process had become politicized.  The report concluded that the selection proceedings failed to satisfy international standards requiring that the process be transparent and based on reasonable and objective standards.  It recommended additional screening of the candidates proposed by the Nominating Board by the Congress and reform of laws regulating the selection process. 


Preliminary Report: Guatemalan High Court Selection Proceedings

As the Guatemalan Congress selected new Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges, the Justice Defenders Program emphasized that the Congress must require the candidates to disclose to the public documents concerning their past legal work and hold open hearings examining the candidates’ records. 


Disciplinary Hearing Observation Report: Polish Judge Alina Czubieniak

The Justice Defenders Program monitored the disciplinary proceedings of Judge Alina Czubieniak, an embematic case in a crackdown on the independence of the judiciary in Poland. The Program highlighted growing evidence that, in addition to the threat to judicial independence posed by the Disciplinary Chamber's creation and process, the Ministry of Justice has used the new process to target judges whose rulings are inconvenient and to chill legitimate and protected free speech.

Threats to judicial independence – not discussion of the Holocaust – are the real threat to Polish democracy

Brittany Benowitz, director of the Justice Defenders Program, warns the Polish government’s campaign against judicial independence in Poland could culminate in a more pliable justice system, largely unable to fulfill its critical role of upholding Poland’s Constitution and the rights of its citizens, and thereby eroding the rule of law.