2013 Rule of Law Fellowship Programme

15/03/2013

The Trust hosted its second Middle East Rule of Law Programme, sponsored by the UK Foreign Office’s Arab Partnership Fund, from 22nd February to 13th March 2013. Sixteen Fellows from Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Oman arrived in England with the aim of gaining a greater understanding of the UK’s political system, the Rule of Law and how best to develop their action plans, a project to implement upon their return home. The programme, being based on all previous JSMT endeavours, included three tried and tested components: workshops, personal attachments and events.

The first session of the programme was an introduction to the values that John Smith held dear, and how the Trust commemorates his ideals by advocating the principles and practices of democracy. Having being acquainted with the aims of the Trust and the timetable of the programme, the Fellows undertook a teamwork and group relationship building exercise with Paul Jamieson from LAMDA. That evening the Fellows were introduced to the rest of the JSMT staff at a welcome dinner at Number Twelve Restaurant.

The title of the first workshop day was, ‘The Overview of the concept, importance and relevance of the Rule of Law’ and included the speakers, The Rt Hon Charles Clarke, who introduced the programme to an overview of the Rule of Law; Professor John Gardner and Judith Farbey QC, who spoke on the ‘Evolution of the Rule of Law’; and Mike Harris from Index on Censorship, who discussed ‘The Rule of Law and achieving justice, when is it right to break the Law’. The following workshops saw a range of authorities lecturing on topics close to their hearts. Professor Ben Bowling and Roger Graef OBE spoke on ‘Policing and the Rule of Law’; Lord Fowler debated with Simon Fanshawe on gay marriage in the UK; Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the JSMT Chairman, spoke on the establishment of the Supreme Court; Baroness Prashar, Dr Richard Stone OBE and Professor Brian Cathcart, lead a day on British Inquiries system, concentrating on the Leveson, Chilcott and Macpherson reports; General Sir Mike Jackson, a JSMT Trustee, argued the benefits for both soft and hard power; while Professor Andrew Murray and Phil Booth delivered fascinating presentations on ‘Internet and Freedom’ and ‘Identity of the Individual’ respectively.

On Wednesday 6th the Fellows were privileged to attend an All Party Parliamentary Group drop in session in the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Smith, where they had the chance to discuss their action plans and specific countries with the representatives of several APPGs including: Lord Carlisle, Lord Fellowes, Lord Bach, and Lord Dubs, Baroness Uddin, Paul Goggins MP, Andy Love MP, Sir Edward Garnier MP and Gary Kent.

The development of the Fellows action plans is a key part of their three weeks in the UK. The individual attachment programmes provide Fellows with an opportunity to speak with relevant experts who can advise them on how to implement and improve their actions plans. For example, Nazeeha Saeed, a Bahraini correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo and France 24, wants to create a training programme for journalists in the Arab region encouraging them to understand their rights in situations such as riots or demonstrations. During an intensive attachments programme, Nazeeha visited a number of free speech organisations such as the Rory Peck Trust who have promised to provide training material programmes and the Media Legal Defence Initiative who will play a part in her action plan. Nazeeha also attended a number of attachment events, for example the Front Line Event where she was able to network with organisations and individuals who could relate to her action plan.

Tarek Mkanna, a Captain in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, maintains that successful policing must revolve around a transparent dialogue between society and the police. He plans to set up a model police station in one of the more troubled neighbourhoods in Beirut and hopes that this flagship station will convince others in the city to follow his notion of community policing. While in the UK, Tarek spent time with the Home Office, the College of Policing in Bramshill, Transparency International and the Metropolitan Police.

Hazim Hameed, an Advisor and Diplomat to the Iraqi Presidency, plans to establish a leadership training programme for junior civil servant minsters which mirrors the demands of the people of Iraq and not just the politicians. In order to put this plan into practice, Hazim benefitted from attachments meetings with the Rt Hon Charles Clarke, Lord Wood, David Muir, and the Institute of Government.

The final weekend of the programme saw the return of the Fellows who attended the previous November Middle East Rule of Law Programme for a ‘Follow-Up Conference’. During the weekend both cohorts of Fellows discussed an alumni development programme, formulated ideas for individual countries on how to implement action plans and held group discussions on the future of Syria and why the West did not predict the Arab Spring. The weekend was a great success; it helped to form key relationships and will be the bedrock for the Middle East Alumni Network.

The programme concluded with a tour around the Foreign Office and a talk from Tim Stew, Deputy Head of the Arab Partnership before the Fellows presented their action plans to the rest of the group and a few special guests.

Yousef Wehbah, a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, presented his plan to create a legal training centre in the Palestinian Camps in Lebanon by establishing an NGO to train and enpower the PSNF, in order to provide protection for civilians inside the camps and support their basic human rights.

Sarah Al Sharji, an Omani Lawyer, plans to initiate a public awareness campaign and a pro bono legal clinic at the Oman Women’s Association offering free legal advice to women, so that she can help spread legal awareness and provide access to justice for Omani women. Sarah’s discussions with Baroness Stern and Baroness Uddin helped develop her action plan while her visits to the legal NGO ‘Rights of Women’ and the Coram Children’s Legal Centre provided her with direct examples of how best to set up her legal clinic.

Malik Shishtawi, the founder and president of the Arab Social Media Forum (ASMF) from Jordan, hopes to expand on his previous experiences with the ASMF. He plans to launch further versions of the forum in Qatar and Bahrain, as well as improving his events and further engaging with community members across the region, with an overall plan of expanding social media across the Middle Eastern Region.

The final event of the three weeks was a Farewell Dinner, attended by the Fellows, speakers, JSMT staff and Trustees, where the Fellows were presented with their certificates by Baroness Smith.