According to the ABA website:
“The ABA Rule of Law Initiative is a public service project of the American Bar Association dedicated to promoting rule of law around the world. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative believes that rule of law promotion is the most effective long-term antidote to the pressing problems facing the world community today, including poverty, economic stagnation, and conflict.
The Europe and Eurasia Program, also known as CEELI, was founded in 1990 as the ABA's first international technical legal assistance program. The programs furnish technical assistance on a wide range of issues essential for further consolidation of the rule of law, including: judicial independence and effective judicial ethics regimes; increasing application of human rights norms; increasing access to justice; reforming legislation and legal institutions; reforming law schools to better prepare tomorrow's legal professionals; combating corruption; building a "rule of law culture" by educating the public about legal rights and responsibilities; combating human trafficking. Increasingly CEELI is working to establish "legacy" organizations that can continue to support reform after the ABA Rule of Law Initiative departs a country.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative launched its Azerbaijan office in 1999 and followed by a criminal law program in 2003. ABA ROLI has worked to promote legal reform by supporting lawyer trainings, by raising public awareness about legal rights, by strengthening the quality of legal education and by providing trainings and resources for members of the judiciary, which are meant to increase transparency and accountability.”
The office in Baku is split into several working groups each with different responsibilities, which work together to fulfill ABA’s Rule of Law mandate. The four main programs are: Criminal Law Reform and Anti-trafficking, Legal Education Reform and Civic Education, Legal Professional Reform, and Access to Justice and Human Rights. Two of these programs, Criminal Law Reform and Legal Education Reform, have liaisons from the United States, who are retired attorneys volunteering for the ABA ROLI program.
The Criminal Law Reform program focuses on strengthening criminal defense representation, improving the criminal and criminal procedure codes’ implementation in accordance with international fair trial standards and on raising public awareness about corruption.
The Legal Education Reform program implements a street law program, which incorporates legal education into secondary schools. The program has enabled law students from eight universities to teach school children in six different cities. The law students help 8 to 15 year-olds understand their basic legal rights and offer ways to confront corruption. The street law program has expanded to include an online program for rural children and in 2008 it launched an in-class street law pilot program, where a law student and a schoolteacher together instruct the students.
The program also supports legal clinics at Baku State and Naxchivan State Universities. These legal clinics boost students’ practical legal skills through in-person client consultations. The ABA staff also train clinic students on client interviewing techniques, consultation skills, trial advocacy and substantive areas of law. The program also provides legal services to those who otherwise could not afford legal representation
The Legal Professional Reform Program has recently worked on the establishment of the Women’s Bar Association, the first of its kind in Azerbaijan. A gender-specific bar association was conceived to help overcome the unique challenges and barriers the women professionals face and to provide a forum for women to lobby for their rights. The Legal Professional Reform program also works on Continuing Legal Education programs that focus on new legislation, legal skills and law practice management.
The Access to Justice and Human Rights program comes in the form of the Legal Advocacy Center (LAC) at our office in Baku. The LAC provides pro bono services to those in need of representation, with a particular focus on serving human rights cases and on training young lawyers. The center’s attorneys have provided consultations, prepared applications, appeals, cassation appeals, legal memos, motions and other legal documents and written complaint letters to various state entities. The center, which accepts new cases three times a week, has consulted more than 3,000 clients. The LAC has also filed many cases with the European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg.
The LAC has also helped many young attorneys obtain the requisite three years of professional experience required to be admitted to the Collegium of Advocates. A lawyer must be a member of the Collegium in order to engage in criminal defense litigation in Azerbaijan. This year the LAC had its first three lawyers apply to the Collegium and sit for the exam. All three candidates passed both the written and oral portions of the exam.