Every day in countries throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of citizens are arbitrarily detained, tortured, and denied access to counsel; many will never receive a fair trial. In the past two decades, we have moved from dictatorships, authoritarian and closed communist governments to emerging democracies and more open communist systems with laws designed to protect their people. In recent years, 93 of the 113 developing countries that practice torture have taken a strong stance in favor of human rights by signing international conventions and adopting domestic laws that safeguard the rights of ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, many of these laws remain unenforced due to a lack of trained lawyers and other significant resources, allowing torture to continue unchecked as the cheapest form of investigation. This human rights scourge impacts people all over the world.  The human rights community still focuses much of its efforts on high-profile prisoners and on developing the international and local prosecutorial side of the justice system. Without support for the local implementation of the rule of law, which includes effective defense counsel, the vast majority of ordinary citizens in developing countries worldwide – poor, vulnerable and anonymous – are left exposed to police brutality and lack of due process rights. The ghosts of the past remain as vestiges of entrenched old systems despite new laws. It doesn’t have to be this way. The world can act to end torture as an investigative tool in the 21st century.

IBJ was founded to bridge the gap between the old and new by focusing on the local implementation of laws safeguarding citizen rights and by strengthening the critical, and most often neglected, defender side of the scale.


International Bridges to Justice is dedicated to protecting the basic legal rights of ordinary citizens in developing countries. IBJ works to guarantee everyone the right to competent legal representation, protection from cruel and unusual punishment and the right to a fair trial. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a guiding principle of  IBJ.

One of the biggest obstacles is that the West has not yet stood up to believe that absolutely we can and must end torture as an investigative tool in the 21st century. We have within our capabilities the power to do this. History did not and does not descend upon us - we are the agents that create history. History has repeatedly shown that fear can be counteracted only through hope. This hope moves us to action.

‘I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.’ Rosa Parks

Much like ending slavery in the 19th century or apartheid in the 20th century, nothing can change until people believe it can. People initially scoffed at these notions and while claiming them to be noble ideas, declared them to be crackpot and wildly idealistic. But something changed once they began to believe and saw that change was possible.

While we have been working in individual countries for this shift in consciousness and sense of agency and belief, we have realized that nothing more than a worldwide movement will lead us to the tipping point where our vision is possible, even to bring about the most effective change within individual countries. In order to effect change, all of us must stand up and BELIEVE that it is possible and that we are the agents of history to end torture and implement due process rights.


Our mission can only be achieved if our cause becomes a priority global issue. We must therefore seed a worldwide movement focused on ending torture, a movement which we intend to drive to a tipping point beyond which the world will have changed forever and the use of torture as an investigative tool will have been eradicated.

To drive this movement, we will create momentum globally, and at national and grassroots levels in individual countries:
a. At a global level, we will:
a. Influence international political will, by using advocacy tools to put ending torture and implementing due process rights on the global agenda, which will lead countries to work to improve their records in these areas, and give individuals around the world the courage to try to make positive changes to their criminal justice systems, in the belief that this worldwide pressure will get their ideas heard.
The tools we will use include:
i. Using ‘Torture’ Indexes to show how countries perform relative to each other and to make an economic argument for why having functioning criminal justice systems makes economic sense.
ii. Presenting the issue at important conferences of global leaders, and spreading the issue through the networks formed.
iii. Publishing articles and providing thought leadership to convince a global audience.
b. Build a worldwide community of public defenders and people committed to this cause. We recognize that there is strength in numbers and togetherness moves people out of fear. Innovation happens in all our local communities, but without an effective, interactive, personal network to disperse this innovation, it is less likely to expand beyond the borders of the community in which an idea is created. Furthermore, cross-cultural interaction will foster a higher volume of legal innovation because experiences can be shared and analyzed in new ways by people from varying backgrounds, creating a rich environment for ideas to grow.
The tools we will use include:
i. Using technology to connect our passionate local defender organizations in ways that have never been previously explored – creating a defender portal. The result will be a global community of practice in which lawyers feel truly connected to each other and have a tangible system of support. This will facilitate knowledge diffusion and resource sharing and will also create more opportunities for personal interaction.
ii. Holding regular Global Defender Forums, to seed the community and strengthen relationships, develop new ideas, build momentum and raise awareness of the cause.
b. At the national level, we will work with governments and national organizations to support our work in countries, giving us the authority to work with lower-level organizations to effect lasting, system-wide change, and providing protection to the sometimes dangerous work of our Fellows and other public defenders. The tools we use will consist of:
i. Memorandums of Understanding with Ministries of Judges, Bar Associations, Associations of legal aid lawyers if they exist etc., to confirm their support for our work.
ii. Hosting roundtable meetings between all the key stakeholders in criminal justice systems, using a values-driven approach to get them to respect each other and understand each party’s role, discuss the problems in their system, suggest ways that they can work together to resolve the issue, and agree action plans for what they will do.
iii. Working with partners to recommend policy changes to governments, where such changes are critical to effecting lasting improvements in the criminal justice systems of countries.
c. At a grassroots local level, we will bring together the key players in criminal justice systems to discuss problems and agree changes that need to be made, we will support and train public defenders so that their numbers and skill levels are increased, we will train police, prison officials, judges etc. where this is needed to effect systemic change, and we will advise citizens of their legal rights, so they can claim their rights if they are accused. The tools we will use include:
i. Supporting brave entrepreneurial lawyers as they lead activities and try important cases to improve the criminal justice systems in their countries.
ii. Finding, supporting and connecting ‘JusticeMakers’ around the world, to build a community of committed public defenders that will be mutually supportive and help drive the movement forward country by country.
iii. Training public defenders and legal aid lawyers, to increase both the quantity and skill levels of lawyers in a country, using a train-the-trainer approach, and using internet technologies to provide remote eLearning courses and allow people to attain increasing levels of accreditation of their criminal defense skills.
iv. Training other players in the criminal justice systems (e.g. police, prison officials, judges) in key aspects of criminal justice processes and due process rights.
v. Hosting roundtable meetings between all the key stakeholders in criminal justice systems, using a values-driven approach to get them to respect each other and understand each party’s role, discuss the problems in their system, suggest ways that they can work together to resolve the issue, and agree action plans for what they will do.
vi. Running rights awareness campaigns and producing and distributing rights awareness materials, to teach citizens their basic legal rights.

IBJ's emphasis is on the ultimate goal of building the infrastructure and supportive judicial communities to institutionalize defender standards worldwide. IBJ's activities are designed to build sustainable infrastructure (i.e., procedures, systems, legal architecture, arraignment courts, etc.) to make this work. We are more than the legal issues we train about.  We are about inspiring leadership empowerment to build the movement where the law is the foundation to protect. We are the container for the joys, hopes and dreams of the future. We believe that we can shepherd these dreams and help others create a powerful future. And this is why we focus on sparking hope for justice in communities throughout the world and connecting these communities to each other globally.
Last modified: Saturday, 17 June 2017, 8:09 PM