WHO WE SERVE

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.

BELARUS

Preliminary Report on the Disbarment of Alexander Pylchenko

In this December 2020 report, the Program finds that Mr. Pylchenko was disbarred in what appears to be a violation of national and international law standards, further undermining the rule of law in Belarus.

CAMBODIA

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. 

GUATEMALA

Statement of ABA President Patricia Lee Refo Re: Appointment of magistrates in Guatemala

The American Bar Association is deeply concerned by media accounts and reports from human rights observers about widespread irregularities in the appointment of magistrates to the Constitutional Court of Guatemala.

Declaración de la presidenta de la ABA, Patricia Lee Refo, sobre el nombramiento de magistrados en Guatemala

La American Bar Association (ABA) está profundamente preocupada por los informes en medios de comunicación y los informes de observadores de derechos humanos sobre las irregularidades generalizadas en el nombramiento de magistrados para la Corte Constitucional de Guatemala.

Letter from ABA President Patricia Lee Refo to Guatemalan Bar Association on Constitutional Court Selection

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo and the Center call for transparency in the upcoming Constitutional Court selection process in Guatemala and offer the ABA's support to the Guatemalan Bar Association to vet candidates in a transparent process to ensure candidates are selected on the basis of merits and honorability. 

Letter from ABA President Patricia Lee Refo to Guatemalan Supreme Court on Constitutional Court Selection

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo and the Center call for transparency in the upcoming Constitutional Court selection process in Guatemala and offer the ABA's support to the Supreme Court of Guatemala to vet candidates in a transparent process to ensure candidates are selected on the basis of merits and honorability. 

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. 

HONDURAS

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. 

POLAND

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.

The Case of Igor Tuleya: Continued Threats to Judicial Independence in Poland

On November 18, 2020, the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland ruled to lift Judge Igor Tuleya’s immunity so that the prosecutor’s office may pursue criminal charges against him for his decision to permit media attendance at a December 2017 hearing in his courtroom. The November 18 ruling was the culmination of an ongoing campaign by the National Prosecutor’s Office against Judge Tuleya in recent years due to his public criticism of the PiS government’s judicial reforms. This report outlines the various disciplinary inquiries that the prosecutor’s office has instituted against Judge Tuleya since 2018, as well as the proceedings before the Disciplinary Chamber concerning his judicial immunity. 

TANZANIA

Statement of Concern on Permanent Disbarment of Tanzanian Lawyer, Fatma Karume

The ABA is deeply concerned with the decision of the Advocates Disciplinary Committee in Tanzania to permanently disbar Ms. Fatma Karume from practicing law in Tanzania. The ABA is concerned that the excessive punishment imposed on Ms. Karume, a lawyer who is a vocal critic of the government and involved in a case challenging an action of the government, threatens the rule of law.