International Bridges to Justice

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International Bridges to Justice

Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Karen Tse is building international coalitions to support public defenders in emerging democracies. Through a replicable sequence of training, structural reform, and international support, Karen enables societies to pursue the basic rights to legal representation and protection from mistreatment using the law.

About Project

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Karen's vision is straightforward: a global movement to improve criminal defense systems, particularly regarding due process and the rights of the accused. Karen believes citizens worldwide can and should have a role in supporting legal aid bureaus and criminal defenders, but the human rights field has not provided many constructive ways to do so. So Karen is forming "Communities of Conscience," comprising public defenders' offices in other countries, bar associations, law schools, law firms, businesses, and other civil institutions interested in a particular target country or human rights. They do everything from raising money to equipping legal-aid offices to providing expert assistance, volunteers, information systems, and close collaboration on procedural reform.International support for human rights and legal reform is not new, but Karen is introducing a new methodology to the field. To begin, she works with governments, not against them. Karen's organization, International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), is the first citizen-sector organization to have a formal agreement to work with China's legal aid bureaus on criminal law. Karen does not use advocacy as a tactic—no damning reports, no gruesome photographs, no candlelight vigils for political prisoners. Instead, Karen concentrates on the fundamentals of systemic reform: rooms in police stations where attorneys and clients consult in confidence; information systems that track cases and clients; agreements with police on advising suspects of their rights; and how police notify lawyers when suspects request counsel.IBJ opens relationships by working intensively within the system, but Karen understands that long-term support must be a citizen-led effort, rather than the programmatic specialty of her organization alone. IBJ's goal is to build the bridge, ensure its strength, and direct international traffic to flow through it. Karen pioneered this style in postwar Cambodia and is now linking Bridges to Justice with American and European lawyers and citizen groups in China and Vietnam, following particular issues and programs. IBJ has access to 8,000 defenders in Cambodia, China, and Vietnam, who serve over 1.3 billion people. As IBJ progresses, people interested in criminal justice can contribute to legal reform from any country around the world.