OpenTrial - equity's guardian.
OpenTrial's rationale and mission
To OpenTrial, the rule of law is the bedrock of sustainable economic, social and political development. Human rights to the majority in the world are not even an aspiration, let alone a reality. Most legal systems in the developing world are dysfunctional through being riddled with violence and corruption. Conscientious lawyers may make a difference in individual cases of injustice; but their efforts are often a drop in the lawless ocean which some four billion people have the misfortune to inhabit.
OpenTrial works to change this - pragmatically, by taking into account existing dynamics and harnessing those that can bring about change for the better. Indeed, over the last decade things have changed. The rule of law is now recognised as essential for lifting peoples out of poverty and abuse. Big international players in rule-of-law building are acknowledging their failure. Many more countries are making the transition from tyranny to democracy. Legal system corruption and violence have been thoroughly investigated and reported on. Transparency leading to accountability and engagement by civil society is seen as a solution. The internet has become more interactive, more social, more engaging and more widespread. Power in the world is shifting and, with it, hegemonies are being dissolved while legal structures take their place.
It has to be remembered that in many developing countries judges, police and prosecutors are/were in thrall to tyrannical regimes. To them, integrity, independence, diligence, equality and impartiality are encumbrances, not quintessential qualities. Peer pressure, low salaries and political pressures are often conducive to corruption. The balance needs to be redressed and public scrutiny and civil pressure will do this. It changes the dynamics.
The information needed to empower
Our aim is for legal systems to be exposed to public scrutiny, which can only happen if the public are educated as to what they should properly expect from a criminal justice system. Opacity must go, the mystique must be lifted, and wider societal engagement must be effected. The internet is the ideal medium to monitor and profile judicial, police and prosecution systems in order to aid them to become more functional. We are developing smartphone apps that both inform and, through monitoring, expose. They can be used to report rights violations so that legal system flaws can be identified and dealt with. Computer/video games are another way in which ordinary laypeople can be educated about their rights. In addition, organisational structures, codes of conduct, budgets, expenditure, recruitment and staff policies, and independent reports can all be made public – and in detail. Judges, police chiefs and senior prosecutors can be profiled online too. Wealth audits, salaries, political links, conflicts of interest, training, career paths, etc. can be placed under public scrutiny. Later, entire case procedures can also go online, including videos of interrogations and hearings.
OpenTrial.info provides the tools to bring justice sectors to account – information that is accessible online. Civil society – the media, lawyers, NGOs, etc. - can then use this to push for justice and legal system reform.
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