The ILF has developed a unique and effective approach for ensuring the delivery of high quality criminal defense services to the poor in post-conflict and transitional countries. Before establishing a public defender program, the ILF invests six to twelve months working with local lawyers in the courts to learn a country’s criminal laws and practices. Once the ILF has finished its assessment and confirmed that domestic laws will allow for lawyers to proactively defend the rights of their clients, ILF attorneys draft a detailed practice manual and set up a public defender office staffed with local lawyers. These local lawyers are then trained for several years—day-in and day-out—by an experienced team of international criminal defense lawyers, known as International Fellows. International Fellows volunteer for three- to six-month assignments in the ILF’s public defender offices mentoring the local lawyers, by providing legal and technical expertise in their daily representation of clients. International Fellows impart analytical skills and written and verbal advocacy skills, as well as the inspiration for local lawyers to transform their roles from that of passive participants to proactive advocates for the rights of their clients. This expert mentoring has led to major changes in the practice of legal defense in Afghanistan, Nepal and the West Bank, shifts in lawyers’ assumptions about their role in the criminal justice system, and the creation of a true culture of defense where none previously existed.
The International Fellows program lasts three to five years or until the local lawyers have sufficient skills and competency to carry out their work effectively without continued international assistance. The ILF then begins to nationalize its country program: supervision and training become the responsibility of local lawyers; fiscal accountability and management shift from the ILF headquarters in New York to local staff; and the direction of the organization is turned over to a national board or other relevant authority. In Afghanistan, the longest standing of the ILF’s projects, the International Fellows program ended in July 2007. The ILF is now assisting ILF-Afghanistan to establish itself as a fully independent, Afghan-run operation.
To contact the ILF about becoming a fellow, please see our Get Involved page.