Anti-Corruption/Torture Apps

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Anti-Corruption/Torture Apps: Smartphone apps that help bring in-custody abusers to account.

Norwich, ParaguayNorwich, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
2010
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Unfair legal processes not only result in torture, extortion, sexual molestation & other in-custody abuse, but also destroy livelihoods & the futures of many besides its direct victims. Our fair trial smartphone app deters this through transparency, helping bring legal system officials to account.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if smartphones could deter torture, bribery and other in-custody abuse?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Most legal systems in the developing world are dysfunctional because of endemic corruption and violence. Because judges, police & prosecutors abuse their power, individuals are abused and traumatised and whole families and communities are retarded. Judges, police & prosecutors are often unaccountable because their activities are shrouded in smog, which means they can abuse their office with impunity. Without information civil society cannot act.

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

Transparency empowers civil society. Our smartphone apps make it easier to identify & publicly report deviations from & abuse of proper legal procedures as set out in international treaties, state constitutions and legislation. By ensuring citizens are better informed about fair legal process and easing the public reporting of abuses, such as extortion, rape and torture, those abuses are deterred. Smartphones are commonplace in the developing world & can be used to educate a detained person's supporters and families, about rights to fair legal process & report violations so that civil society is able to address them through the authorities, media, NGOs, etc. and influence policy on reform. These apps bolster/embed fairness and justice.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Let's say the evidence used to convict an accused was obtained under torture. Were it accepted in court it would violate fair trial criteria. Using our fair trial app, with discretion, this could be identified & publicly reported by defendants' supporters, lawyers, NGOs, consulates, etc., deterring the use of such evidence &, therefore, the violent methods used to obtain it. The app would also help identify occasions when a judge was not acting impartially; but was convicting despite guilt not having been proved beyond reasonable doubt. This might suggest corruption or improper influence, which could be investigated. Information like this, empowers & is a catalyst for civil society to organise & act. In Indonesia we have proved this works.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The potential impact is huge and easily measured by existing indices. The fairness of trials in countries and the strength of the rule of law in states, can be measured by, for instance, the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index and Transparency International's reports on legal system corruption. Furthermore, since fair trials and equality before the law are often prerequisites for economic, social & political development, improvements in these latter show up in a variety of indices that measure annual increases in GDP, GNP, GDP per capita, GNP per capita, as well as inequality of wealth, unemployment, economic structure, demographics, etc. For example, the Human Development Index (HDI) published by the United Nations Development Programme, measures life expectancy, education and income. The ultimate measure is the extent to which people can live in dignity and justice.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In the short-term: measurable improvements in legal system transparency and accountability, civic engagement & reform. In the medium-term: a reduced incidence of legal system corruption, violence, human rights abuse & injustice. In the long term: greater legal stability & predictability, reduced levels of corruption, improved commerce & standards of living, reduced environmental degradation, reduced levels of conflict, etc. The project is highly scaleable & imitation likely. We plan penetrating the Philippines, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and Nigeria over the next 5 years.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

This project can be replicated in countries worldwide, and its potential revenue makes it highly sustainable. Like anything innovative and pioneering, it needs funds to kick-start it, after which, our research shows, it will derive revenue from advertising, annual subscriptions (lawyers, NGOs, media, academia, consulates, etc.) & institutional (World Bank, OECD, IMF, regional banks, OSCE, UN, etc.) & state (donor and recipient nations) budgets.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Mainstream rule of law programmes often fail. Despite the best of intentions, copious amounts of money (in 2009 alone, $2.6 billion was spent on top-down judicial and legal reform by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee) and, seemingly, the best advice available, top-down, rule of law building by prominent players in the field - such as the World Bank, the IMF, the regional banks and USAID – has seldom produced stable democracy, long-term economic growth and the rule of law. The answer is to devolve power to ordinary citizens through the provision of information and public reporting.
Team

Founding Story

I was imprisoned and dispossessed of all I had built up over 13 years in Indonesia. The police, judges and prosecutors were simply there to milk my tragedy. I was rendered powerless and that impotence was truly awful. I also saw or heard accounts of sexual abuse, beatings, torture, extortion, etc. I returned to the U.K. with just three suitcases of clothing; but was determined to find a way to empower the ordinary people of the developing world who were, directly or indirectly, victims of this venal or violent abuse. I researched judicial corruption, weak rule of law, interrogative torture, political intervention in trials, etc. & transparency and accountability as the antidote. Then along came Web 2.0 and smartphone apps. I had the answer!

Team

The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of the Law has helped by selecting this app concept as a finalist in its Innovating Justice Awards 2012. We are endorsed by Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia, Professor Roy A. Schotland, Professor Dennis Töllborg and other luminaries. In Paraguay, we work with the Proley Foundation. We're informally exploring forming a consortium with OSCE in Warsaw, Lawyers Without Borders, Folke Bernadotte Aca etc.
About You
Organization:
OpenTrial
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

OpenTrial

Organization Country

, NFK, Norwich

Country where this project is creating social impact

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Impact
Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward? (Please consider geographic spread, policy reform, and independent replication/adoption of the idea or other mechanisms.)

Countries to be targeted & their populations:
2014 - Philippines (99 million), India (1,242 million) & Brazil (197 million)
2015 – Indonesia (240 million), Nigeria (163 million) & Russia (142 million)
We will focus efforts on the major cities in these countries, as this is where internet connections and smartphone signals are likely to be better.
Promotion will target the media, law societies, bar associations, universities, consulates, human rights and justice NGOs and individual lawyers. Public relations events, media interviews, etc., will be conducted and other publicity undertaken.

Barriers: What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Main barriers:
1. The entrenched and conservative nature of legal professions lacking feedback.
2. The ineffective nature of the rule of law industry and its top-down approach without good feedback.
3. The perception in many countries that little can be done to curb abuses in legal systems because of poor feedback.
These barriers are best overcome by demonstrating the value and impact of feedback that is vital for development, by the authorities and international agencies, of effective policies and practices aimed at preventing in-custody abuse. Citizen engagement is vital for justice.

Sustainability
Partnerships: Tell us about your partnerships.

Our 'partnerships' are currently informal, but include the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (part of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (part of Oslo University), Leader Technologies in the US, Lawyers Without Borders and the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law.

Closing the Loop
How does your project primarily ensure that feedback delivers results?

Demonstrate how closed feedback loops can make a difference in people’s lives.

Please elaborate on your answer to the above question.

Our fair trial apps are 'constituent feedback apps', which create feedback loops, ensuring marginalised voices in jail are heard, and often for the first time. The benefits of providing citizen feedback using our apps are enormous. By informing, identifying and publicly reporting abuse of legal procedures, support is attracted to uphold fair trial rights and justice. In this area the 'experts', with their top-down approach, are failing, which makes citizen feedback and engagement even more vital. Feedback also helps us ensure our apps are layperson friendly & work effectively, as in Paraguay.

Languages: In what languages are you able to read and write fluently?

English.

2nd Round Questions
Thinking about your feedback loop; what information are you trying to get from whom, to whom, and to bring about what change?

From defendants, their supporters, lawyers, NGOs, consulates, etc. we would expect information about violations of fair due process criteria, e.g. was a confession obtained by torture/sexual abuse, was there time to prepare the defence, was the defendant treated as innocent until proven guilty, did the judge show bias that might suggest corruption, etc.?
This information needs to be made available to the public. Then civil society (NGOs, lawyers, bar associations, law societies, human rights organisations, the media, etc.) will be able to take the issues up with the authorities and influence reform policy. Through such accountability of police, judges and prosecutors, future violations will be deterred.
Such feedback would have to be provided with discretion, depending on the circumstances of each case.
The change that such feedback will bring about is highly significant because most developing world legal systems are dysfunctional and injustice, especially for the poor, is rampant. When ordinary people cease to be the victims of legal systems riddled with violence and corruption, they will be empowered to transform their lives for the better.
This is often very difficult for those in the developed world and even the middle-classes in the developing world, to appreciate, because they are seldom victims of abuse of state power by officials. It is the poor and marginalised who suffer most and often in the dark.

What is the purpose of your feedback loop?

Accountability to external partners

If other, please specify
What mediums or mechanisms do you use to collect feedback? (check all that apply)

Phone or voice, Website.

If other, please specify
Could you briefly describe the way you collect the feedback?

The feedback is obtained using smartphone apps that cite relevant legislation and constitutional articles, and provide interactive checklists that make it easier for the layperson to determine fair trial/due process rights and whether they have been violated. The apps allow for the completed checklists to be transmitted to a database where they can be analysed to determine trends and patterns and for public exposure.

What mechanisms are in place to protect people from retribution?

Option to provide feedback anonymously

If other, please specify
What are the immediate benefits or incentives for people to provide feedback?

Other

If other, please specify

To be treated fairly, according to the law and free from abuse and extortion.

How do you ensure new and marginalized voices are heard?

Other

If other, please specify

By informing ordinary people about due process rights, helping them apply them in practice and report non-compliance.

What are the incentives for the intended recipient to act on the feedback?

Other

If other, please specify

Civil society pressure and sanctions.

How does the feedback mechanism close the loop with those who provided feedback in the first place?

Other

If other, please specify

They should see improvements in the way they and others are treated.

How is feedback published/transparent?

On a website

If other, please specify
Give two concrete examples of how feedback loops have brought a program or policy more in line with citizens’ desires.

In Indonesia is what is know as the 'Legal Mafia' - the institutional use of bribery and violence to determine the outcome of legal cases.
1. A businessman was framed by another with whom he had had a dispute. Bribes were paid by the latter to jail the former. The violation of due process rights was made public and published in the media, putting pressure on the courts to comply with due process and deliver justice. The businessman was then able to go on to prove his innocence and be acquitted.
2. A man's wife used thugs to evict him from his house and then sold it at a reduced price to a former general. Power and money prevailed over justice. However, when the irregularities in the case were made public, the wife was charged with assault and jailed for three months. The matter of ownership of the house is currently being resolved in court.
Because of partisan external pressures on judges and police, neither of these cases would have been resolved justly without public exposure and accountability.

If there was one thing you could change to increase the impact of your feedback loop, what would it be?

Complement individual case exposure with the profiling of police, prosecutors and judges online (e.g. wealth audits, education/training, career paths, possible conflicts of interest, etc.) along with their institutions (structure, budgets/expenditure, codes of conduct, recruitment, training, promotion policy, reports, performance indicators, etc.). This would help reinforce accountability based on rights to fair legal process.

What are your biggest challenges or barriers in “closing the feedback loop”?

An “expert paradigm” where the perspectives on “non-experts” is not valued

If other, please specify
Are you aware of The Feedback Store?

No, but I would like to be on it

What are the main uses you can envision for the Feedback Store?

Actually, I am aware of it and intend to be on it, so that information can be gathered on the treatment of detainees and the fairness of court procedures in a whole variety of countries in which we intend to operate. This will help both civil society and the authorities determine what needs to be improved and the policies that need adopting.

What is the one thing you would most like to see changed to improve the competition process?

More feedback from and interaction with other participants and Ashoka staff.

What are you doing to make sure that feedback providers know that they are empowered by the information they can give and that they know exactly what the information they are providing?

The information required will be specified by the checklists that help determine whether due process has been complied with. Feedback providers will be told of other cases where feedback has made a difference in advancing justice and deterring in-custody violence and corruption. They should also notice the difference in the way they, themselves, are treated by the authorities.

Comments

Frank Richardson's picture

If ever you find yourself, or a loved one, imprisoned on trumped-up charges in a developing country and subject to in-custody abuse, think about how our smartphone app could have prevented that. If, on your travels, you witness grinding poverty, remember this project and how it empowers the ordinary person to make a stand against abuse and better themselves, their families and their communities.

This seems like a huge challenge -- which is pretty exciting. I'd be slightly concerned about whether legal professionals would be willing to provide content without prejudicing (particularly) ongoing trials. On the other hand, I guess the pre-trial period is probably where the biggest difference could be made. Particularly (as you highlight) those parts of the process that are typically not administered by a court. It wasn't obvious to me where the feedback comes from.

I think a key challenge is how to follow up on the cases and abuses that are reported through this app. What use does the project make of the information collected? Is is shared with authorities, media or other civil-society organizations and activists? Can it feed public policy proposals or prompt authorities to address specific cases of abuse?

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