Justice ExPEERience, the human rights network launched by ASF, celebrates its second anniversary

Two years ago, Avocats Sans Frontières launched Justice ExPEERience, a network for the promotion of human rights, as well as an online platform of the same name to support and energise this network. This anniversary is an opportunity for us to look back at the history and mandate of the Justice ExPEERience network and its platform. A report on its first two years of activity has just been published, covering developments since its creation, its key projects and also its development prospects.

The network has expanded significantly since its launch in 2021. It now has more than 600 members working in 52 countries on 5 continents. The network wants to create more links between actors‧rice‧s in the sector promoting access to justice and human rights around the world. The aim is for them‧elle‧s to be able to share knowledge, build capacity and work on joint projects to have more impact.

The Justice ExPEERience platform has also been significantly improved. In 2022, it was equipped with a mobile application that can be downloaded to any smartphone. The platform’s interface has also been translated into Arabic, adding to the languages already available, including English and French. Developments are also underway to improve the fluidity, speed and user experience‧rice on the Justice ExPEERience platform.

Several communities of practice, coalitions and working groups have also emerged on Justice ExPEErience over the last two years. They have shared information and contributed to exchanges in public spaces, but have also been able to work and collaborate in confidential spaces to collectively develop advocacy campaigns, projects to monitor human rights violations, or strategic litigation.

East Africa – Protecting civic space: A public interest litigation approach

This article was published in ASF’s 2022 annual report.

In 2022, ASF’s East Africa office launched a project covering three countries in the region: Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. The objective of the project is to contribute to the advancement of the rule of law through the understanding and usage of regional human rights treaty bodies, mechanisms and instruments by local civil societies organisations.

In practice, the project focuses on promoting the use of public interest litigation as a tool for influence, to bring about positive reforms in the areas of civic space and civil liberties. In its countries of intervention, ASF has identified existing and developing cases led by civil society organisations. Through the project, financial and technical support is provided to these cases, along with strategic reflection on how their reach can be amplified through advocacy and external engagements. A key aspect of the project, given its regional nature, will also be to support cases mobilizing regional mechanisms such as the East African Court of Justice, or the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).

With support from the Pan African Lawyers’ Union, ASF is working on legal submissions to the ACHPR on the right of association, which cover a dozen African states. Our observations and legal analyses led us to believe that practices and laws governing NGOs in many African states were in violation of the freedom of association. These submissions are aimed at upholding fundamental civil liberties and imposing a positive obligation on the states to reform the laws in force and to end the practices infringing on the right of association.  

ASF is also providing financial and technical support to a constitutional petition brought by civil society organizations, including Chapter Four, before Uganda’s Constitutional Court, to challenge the constitutionality of the Computer Misuse Act voted into law in October 2022. Though this controversial piece of legislation has been hailed by the government as a necessary protection of privacy in the digital age, it is perceived by many local CSOs as an infringement on the freedoms of expression and press.

ExPEERience Talk #11 – Decriminalising poverty, status and activism: a global emergency, an international campaign

  • When? 5 October – 12 pm (GMT+1, Tunis) ; 1pm (GMT+2, Brussels)
  • Language: French
  • Free online event – Mandatory registration

This 11th ExPEERience Talk will be devoted to the Campaign for the Decriminalisation of Poverty, Status and Activism. Several of its members will present its history and how it operates. They will discuss the challenges encountered and the opportunities presented by the networking of a multiplicity of actors to tackle a global and systemic issue of such magnitude.

In many countries, criminal procedure, penal codes and policing policies continue to reflect a colonial legacy. Offences dating from the colonial era, such as vagrancy, begging or disorderly conduct, are commonly used against people already in a vulnerable or marginalised situationt (homeless people, people with disabilities, drug users, LGBTIQ+ people, sex workers, migrants, etc.), with the sole aim of criminalising what they represent in society rather than the offences they have committed. Many countries are also witnessing a narrowing of civic space and the use of criminal law to repress activism and stifle dissent. These phenomena are deeply rooted in the legislation, institutions and practices of States around the world.

During this ExPEERience Talk, speakers from several of the campaign’s member organisations will illustrate the very real consequences of these repressive laws and practices for civil society and the general public. They will also talk about the various actions undertaken as part of the campaign: joint research, litigation and lobbying actions before national and international institutions.

To date, the campaign is supported by some fifty civil society organisations from many countries. Its ambition is to create the conditions for a global change in criminal and social laws, policies and practices by adopting a transnational and multisectoral strategy.

Speakers

  • Khayem Chemli – Head of advocacy at ASF – Euromed region (moderator)
  • Soheila Comninos – Senior program manager at Open Society Foundations
  • Arnaud Dandoy – Research & Learning Manager at ASF – Euromed region
  • Asmaa Fakhoury – Country director Morocco
  • Maria José Aldanas – Policy Officer at FEANTSA

Justice ExPEERience: a network and a platform for the promotion of human rights

This article was written as part of ASF’s 2022 annual report, which will soon be available on ASF’s website.

Justice ExPEERience is an international network of actors active in the promotion of human rights on all five continents. It is above all a collaborative network, in which members are invited to share their experiences and expertise, but also to work together, in coalitions or communities of practice, on concrete projects for monitoring human rights violations, strategic litigation or advocacy actions.

More than a year after its launch, the Justice ExPEERience network has over 400 members. Among them are activists, lawyers, researchers, members of civil society, etc. who work in the fields of justice and human rights promotion. ASF’s ambition is to create an environment that allows all these actors to collaborate and mutually strengthen their expertise and capacities.

This is why ASF has started to develop in 2021 the digital platform Justice ExPEERience. This digital tool allows the network to be animated and structured. This is where exchanges take place, where learning between peers from different regions becomes possible, where working groups are formed and where collaborations are developed.

In order to guarantee the security of its members and the confidentiality of the information shared on Justice ExPEERience, the data is hosted directly on ASF’s servers and does not transit through the servers of big digital companies. To promote multi-country networking and meet the needs of as many actors as possible, Justice ExPEERience is a multilingual platform: its interface is currently available in German, English, Arabic, French and Portuguese; and posted content and news can be translated into other languages using an instant translation tool. In 2022, the platform was also developed as a mobile application, downloadable and usable on smartphones, to make it more accessible in all contexts.

On Justice ExPEERience, all members can share information, news and interact like on a social network, on human rights issues; but they can also share documentation and collaborate directly online, in a secure way, on documents. Different collaborative spaces are available on the platform, on specific themes or projects: the platform hosts 250 collaborative spaces, including 20 public spaces dedicated to the exchange and sharing of thematic information between all members of the network. The members of Justice ExPEERience are therefore invited to collaborate not only on public sharing spaces, open to the whole network, but also on confidential private spaces strictly reserved for members working on a common project.

Justice ExPEERience Community(ies)

In these different spaces, network members can work together in coalitions or communities of practice, maintaining the desired level of openness or confidentiality of their work. In 2022, Justice ExPEERience has developed several communities of practice, consisting of civil society actors implementing projects in different countries. They deploy and coordinate joint actions for monitoring human rights violations (in different countries), strategic litigation (national or transnational) or advocacy (at local, regional or international level). In the confidential spaces dedicated to them, the communities of practice have a shared and collaborative library, which the members enrich, in order to encourage the horizontal dissemination of expertise and learning between peers. This sharing of expertise and information also takes place in the thematic spaces open to all members, making Justice ExPEERience itself an international and multi-sectoral community of practice.

In order to energise the network and foster exchanges between its members, ExPEERience Talks are organised every month to promote the dissemination of expertise and knowledge. They are webinars during which network members present a research, a project, a tool or an analysis related to the promotion of human rights and justice. In 2022, 5 ExPEERience Talks took place, on topics as varied as the trajectories of Tunisian migrants repatriated from Italy, the governance of natural resources in Uganda and the DRC, penal practices in the CAR, or the scope and impact of the decisions of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Each month, information on new research, activities and events of the network is shared in a newsletter, The ExPEERience Letter.

Justice ExPEERience has the ambition to develop further in 2023: attracting new members, enriching the creation and sharing of expertise through its platform but also its Talks and newsletter, developing new collaborations – especially transnational -, opening up to partnerships with external actors and improving the platform and its tools to better meet the needs of its members. Justice ExPEERience will be the subject of a tech-demo at the international summit for digital and human rights, RightsCon, in June 2023.

ASF launches Justice ExPEERience, a network for human rights defenders!

La naissance du réseau Justice ExPEERience

Confronté à un environnement dynamique et en perpétuel changement, ASF a depuis plusieurs années amorcé un tournant stratégique important. Les réflexions et constats autour du rôle et de la mission d’ASF ont amené à repositionner l’organisation en tant qu’acteur.rice capable de mobiliser, de créer du lien et d’animer des dynamiques de collaboration entre des acteur.rice.s d’horizons divers. Que ce soit pour mettre en œuvre des projets, développer des approches transnationales, avoir une influence plus forte (plaidoyer), renforcer les actions collectives, ASF aspire à devenir un.e acteur.rice qui rassemble, qui anime non seulement des partenariats mais aussi des réseaux, sur la base d’expertises contextualisées.

C’est dans cette optique qu’est né le réseau Justice ExPEERience, qui vise à mettre en lien les acteur. rice.s de la lutte pour les droits humains et de l’accès à la justice à travers le monde, tout en leur permettant de conserver leur autonomie et en les encourageant à créer des dynamiques avec ou sans ASF. Afin de donner un support concret à ce réseau, ASF s’est également dotée d’un outil du même nom dédié à la création de liens durables de coopération et d’apprentissage entre pair.e.s : la plateforme digitale et collaborative Justice ExPEERience.

Développer des réseaux et des communautés de pratique

Outre son intérêt pour améliorer les échanges et le travail collectif en interne chez ASF, la plateforme Justice ExPEERience est avant tout un outil pour le développement de réseaux et de communautés de pratique. Mais qu’entend-on exactement par communauté de pratique ? Une communauté de pratique est un groupe de personnes travaillant dans un domaine similaire ou partageant des intérêts pour un même sujet, qui se réunissent pour échanger, apprendre de l’expérience des un.e.s et des autres afin de renforcer leurs savoirs et leurs compétences, de mieux réaliser leurs objectifs, voire de porter des projets communs.

Avec ses partenaires, ASF a ainsi constitué des communautés de pratique très actives dans plusieurs contextes. Justice exPEERience a notamment permis de développer une communauté de pratique en République démocratique du Congo (RDC) autour d’une action de contentieux stratégique mettant l’État congolais face à ses responsabilités en matière de détention préventive abusive et de mauvaises conditions de détention. D’abord constituée lors de rencontres physiques ponctuelles, cette communauté a pu poursuivre collectivement son action tout en assurant une continuité dans l’apprentissage des membres à travers la plateforme Justice ExPEERience. Disposer d’un outil de travail collectif en ligne fut crucial pour développer cette action qui regroupe des membres actif.ve.s dans les différentes provinces de la RDC.

Sur base des enseignements tirés de cette première expérience concluante, plusieurs nouvelles communautés de pratique commencent à voir le jour sur la plateforme, réunissant parfois des partenaires provenant de différentes régions voire de différents pays.

L’organisation de la plateforme Justice ExPEERience

La plateforme Justice ExPEERience permet donc de mettre en lien des acteur.rice.s des droits humains sur des projets spécifiques dans le cadre de communautés de pratique. Afin d’assurer des échanges structurés et organisés, elle est divisée en espaces, dédiés à des thématiques, des contextes ou des projets spécifiques. Il s’agit d’un véritable réseau social sur lequel chaque utilisateur.rice dispose de sa page de profil personnalisable, de ses espaces de discussion et d’échange et de plusieurs fils d’actualité associés aux thématiques sur lesquelles il.elle travaille.

La plateforme vise également à constituer, au fil du développement de toutes ces communautés digitales, un réseau bien plus large et international, amené à échanger sur des thématiques et enjeux globaux, que ce soit directement dans les espaces publics dédiés ou même aussi lors de rencontres virtuelles organisées sous la forme de webinar sur la plateforme. C’est d’ailleurs dans cette optique que la plateforme est rendue accessible en plusieurs langues, dont l’anglais, le français et l’arabe.

Une adaptation en continu

Justice ExPEERience offre beaucoup de perspectives à ASF et ses partenaires. La plateforme continue à être développée en prenant en compte les retours d’expérience de ses membres pour répondre au mieux aux besoins d’ASF et de ses partenaires. Elle est en évolution constante, de nombreuses améliorations et ajouts sont prévus, notamment le développement prochain d’une application mobile pour garantir une meilleure accessibilité de la plateforme partout dans le monde