LEGAL CLINICS PROJECT
The Free Syrian Lawyers Association (FSLA) launched the Legal Clinics Project
since 2016 for purpose….
(1) providing different pro bono legal and governance services to citizens inside Syria through seven legal clinics (Clinic Services),
(2) examining the current legal practices and highlighting selected legal challenges that are likely to affect the legal status of citizens during and after the conflict (Legal Research), and
(3) calling civil society’s attention to justice challenges and promote collective efforts to address them (Promoting Collaboration). These components were designed to achieve the following objectives:
• Strengthening the rule of law and adherence to human rights in opposition held areas by providing free legal aid to citizens, documenting human rights abuses and war crimes, strengthening governance mechanisms, and raising awareness and advocating against unacceptable practices at the local and international level;
• Promoting a victim-centered approach to justice by offering victims a place to speak and share their stories;
• Introducing an inclusive understanding of justice into the Syria justice discussions that considers not only criminal but also economic and social justice;
• Building trust and fostering collaboration among Syrian civil society organizations.
To achieve these objectives FSLA partnered with the Center for Rule of Law & Good Govern-ance (CRLGG) and the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law (Center). The focus of work and expertise of these partners allowed FSLA to expand its legal knowledge and interna-tional reach and improve the outcomes of the Project.
• CRLGG is a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C., U.S., that seeks to foster rule of law, promote good governance, and bring justice and accountability to post-conflict situations, particularly in Syria.
It combines the experience and expertise of Syrian lawyers with the skills and perspectives of international lawyers to amplify the voice of civil society organizations and support the regional transition towards the rule of law and good governance. CRLGG contributed to the Project through its ex-tensive network among the Syrian and international community and its legal expertise in international human rights, humanitarian, and criminal law.
• The Center is part of American University Washington College of Law in Washington D.C., U.S., and has worked with students, law professors, and the international legal community to provide support for human rights initiatives around the world for over 25 years. Its directors are renowned experts in the field of international human rights and humanitarian law and transitional justice, including Professors Robert Goldman, Juan Mendez, Diane Orentlicher, and Claudio Grossman. The Center engages in cutting-edge research, develops trainings, and implements projects across the globe to protect and promote the rights of the most vulnerable population groups.
For the purpose of this project the Center only supported the Legal Research component of the Project by providing researchers and the excellent legal expertise of its directing professors. As part of an international academic institution with an excellent reputation in the field of human rights, the Center offered a neutral platform to research controversial legal questions and con-tributed to the credibility of the Legal Research.
2 : Clinic Services
FSLA and CRLGG started seven legal clinics in four Syrian provinces.
The Clinics provide vari-ety of services that are related to legal and governance issues.
which are located in Homs, Daraa, and Idlib. Aleppo
A. Need for Clinic Services in the Liberated Areas:
The ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in mass destruction, countless war crimes and human rights abuses, and an unprecedented wave of internal and external displacement. The military confrontations have led to an anarchic situation in many parts of the country, including the col-lapse of justice systems. Several actors and armed groups have filled this vacuum, establishing ad hoc judicial and governance institutions. While a few of them have succeeded in providing basic services to the population, most of the ad hoc institutions operate in an arbitrary manner without due regard to the rule of law and human rights.
This situation has exacerbated the anarchy; people have lost faith in institutional justice, and a culture of self-help justice has emerged. In response to these problems, FSLA in close collaboration with CRLGG opened the legal clinics and began offering the Clinic Services in liberated areas.
B. Description of the Clinic Services
The legal clinics of FSLA and CRLGG offered the following four Clinic Services related to legal and governance issues to the citizens living in their respective areas:
1. Providing pro bono legal services: Through legal clinics, people can obtain informed legal advice from trained Syrian lawyers on a wide range of issues concerning their transactions, such as the protection of property rights, establishing commercial or in-vestment ventures, and forming other types of contracts.
2. Documenting legal violations and supporting victims: Legal clinics support individuals affected by the conflict and provide victims and their families with a venue to share their stories. In addition, legal clinics receive reports about incidents of enforced disappearance, kidnapping, and arrest. The clinics then work with the families of the concerned party to identify their whereabouts.
3. Raising awareness and advocating against emerging repugnant practices: Legal clinics host periodic meetings with locals, offering them a space to discuss legal topics of common concern. Moreover, legal clinics organize awareness-raising sittings and campaigns, which call people’s attention to repugnant phenomena that emerged dur-ing the conflict such as child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
4. Developing governance mechanisms: Legal clinics play a role in supporting govern-ance efforts in anarchic areas by supplying ad hoc local councils with the necessary legal and administrative expertise. For example, legal clinics work with ad hoc local councils to regulate real estate and property issues, ensuring that all property rights and real estate transactions are in compliance with respective evidentiary standards.
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