This week, I remained busy with many different projects from around the office. First, I worked on summarizing several reports from Tunisia about the state of public trust in the judiciary. These reports provide extremely valuable information for rule of law work because they provide insight into the needs of the people on the ground and serve as directives for where resources are needed. In these reports it was clear that the most common, and often most serious, legal problem involved employment. 31% of all legal problems in the country dealt with some sort of employment issue with public services coming in a distant second with 18%. Another illuminating finding showed that the people of Tunisia felt that employers and family members were the most helpful legal sources at 20% and 11% respectively. On the other hand, only 7% found judicial councilors to be helpful and police and lawyers were only found to be helpful 1% of the time. Finally, the reports revealed that the judicial system in Tunisia is suffering from a very large public perception problem. 72% of respondents said that they believe that to a very large extent or to a large extent that the courts generally protect the interests of the rich and powerful more than ordinary people. This directly correlates to the level of trust in the judiciary as a whole which presents a large problem to any entity wanting to pursue rule of law work. While these findings may paint a somewhat grim picture in Tunisia, this data can help to improve rule of law initiatives by tailoring certain approaches to the country. If used correctly, new programs in Tunisia can learn to flourish in this current environment.
Following my work on the Tunisia reports, I moved on to another assignment involving the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative that I mentioned last week. After setting up the basic aspects of the website such as profile pictures, I drafted five articles on recent rule of law work initiatives in the Caribbean to be uploaded to the site. The first four articles were about NCSC’s recent work in Trinidad & Tobago, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. These activities including introducing new case management systems, creating new criminal bench books for magistrates, and providing training on important courtroom skills such as making opening statements and conducting direct examinations. The last article I worked on dealt with the regional seminar for the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI). Eight members of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative were present at this seminar including Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Suriname. The two day affair focused on providing support to countries who wished to ratify or who had recently ratified the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT). This is important for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative because out of the 33 states who have not ratified the UNCAT, 8 of those states are from the Caribbean basin. CTI hopes that all the Caribbean countries will eventually become parties to the UNCAT and this seminar provided yet another step in this direction. At the end of the event, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Suriname declared that they were all considering the benefits of ratifying the Convention.
After these two larger projects, I also worked on several smaller assignments as well. I designed a new quality assurance form for a pilot program in Bosnia & Herzegovina, worked on reformatting the NCSC Subcontract and closeout package, and received a research assignment on comparing civil asset forfeiture in the United States to the practices of Egypt. This last assignment dealing with Egypt will require the drafting of a legal memo and if all goes well, will be used to create a joint project with Egyptian law students. Overall, this was a very productive week and I look forward to what the next week holds in store.