Category Archives: Eastern Europe

European Innocence Network Conference Held in Prague


On June 16-17, a full house packed the meeting room at the Czech Parliament Building in Prague for the first European Innocence Network Conference.  Representatives were present from England, Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Greece, Armenia, Israel, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, among others.  The program is available here, and included talks and panels on the causes of wrongful conviction across national borders, how to start an innocence organization, and the vision of future structure of the European Innocence Network moving forward.  Day One consisted of formal presentations and panel discussions, while Day Two was dedicated to discussing the structure, the by-laws, the sub-committees, and the future activities of the European Innocence Network.

The conference was sponsored by Daniel Vanek of the Innocence Program Czech Republic, and the Center for the Global Study of Wrongful Conviction at the University of Cincinnati College of Law (part of the Ohio Innocence Project).

The group agreed to meet again in the fall to continue discussing the structure of the Network, to hammer out membership criteria, and to elect board members, etc..  The Network will be housed at the University of Milan, Italy.

As a participant in the conference, I can attest that the energy in the room was high and spirits were soaring.  Everyone left the conference committed to continuing and growing the collaboration in the future.  The fall meeting will be held in either Italy or Dublin on dates to be determined.  The conference in 2017 will be held in Italy (either Rome or Milan), and the 2018 conference will be held in Amsterdam.

Below are some pictures from the event….


Tuesdays Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…


Monday’s Quick Clicks….

  • In Ukraine, many questions of innocence present in church bombing case
  • Last week a New Orleans judge reversed his March decision to grant Booker Diggins a new trial, citing “newly discovered evidence.” A DNA analyst testified in court that Diggins was a high probability match to DNA found in a long-lost rape kit that resurfaced last year. Diggins was sentenced to spend his life in prison for the rape and robbery of a restaurant manager in a Riverwalk storage shed in 1987. The Innocence Project worked for years to exonerate Diggins. The rape kit was assumed lost and they said that there was not enough evidence to link Diggins to the crime.

Law Review Issue on Wrongful Convictions Around the Globe Now in Print…


At long last, the University of Cincinnati Law Review symposium issue stemming from the 2011 International Innocence Conference in Cincinnati is finally in print.  The edition contains articles discussing and summarizing the causes and extent of wrongful conviction in countries across the globe.  You can find the entire volume here.  Congrats to all involved on completing this important work.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Risk of wrongful convictions a factor in debate over capital punishment in India
  • Exoneree James Kluppelberg claims in lawsuit that Chicago police tortured him to get confession
  • A crisis of justice and judicial independence in Romania

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Exoneree Brian Banks at rookie camp of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons
  • Although most in the Czech Republic are in favor of reinstating capital punishment, risk of wrongful convictions is the leading factor citing against it
  • More on last week’s Perkins decision by SCOTUS

International Recognition of Wrongful Convictions: A Growing Trend?

ImageWith recent posts on this blog detailing further great news from Europe on developing Innocence Projects (see here… on France, see here… on Belgium, here… on Netherlands), it certainly feels like the ambition of those in the US to spread the word of innocence internationally is proving fruitful. South Australia is celebrating (finally) getting a body to investigate miscarriages of justice – the first in Australia. There have been notorious miscarriages of justice in that State, and many others waiting to see the light of day. They may now have a chance – let’s hope it’s not too long before the other States and Territories follow suit:

A small step in legal reform, a giant leap for justice

Meanwhile, just in the last few weeks I have read the following news items from around the world – perhaps the media is starting to get with the programme?

In China, authorities have apologised ‘deeply’ for wrongly convicting 2 men of rape and murder (including a death sentence that was commuted). They have ordered inquiries into the investigation and conviction of the men. DNA testing led to another man who was executed in 2005 for another killing. Read here: 

Police apologizes to 2 men wrongly convicted

and: Zhejiang plans to probe men’s wrongful conviction.

There are hopes that the revelation of wrongful convictions – including the execution of innocence individuals – in China will lead to the cessation of the death penalty

Putting China on the Path to Ending Capital Punishment

In Israel, an interesting and detailed article looks at the re-opening of the notorious murder of a child at school (the Zadorov case). It re-caps on previous high-profile miscarriages of justice in Israel and their causes:

The Zadorov case

In New Zealand, calls are being made by political party leaders for a pardon in an infamous case where a 17 year old was questioned by police for five days without a lawyer. Teina Pora has spent 20 years in prison for murder – a murder where another man was convicted (on DNA evidence) of raping, but not killing, the victim. The case has always attracted accusations of racism in the treatment of Pora.

Māori Party wants mercy in Pora case

Mounting pressure for re-investigation of Pora case

One can only hope that the spread of media interest in, and political motivation to tackle wrongful convictions, continues.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…


International Expansion of the Innocence Movement in 2012

The purpose of this post is to briefly summarize organized innocence activity around the world during 2012 (If I have left items out, please let me know so I can supplement this post).  The calendar year 2012 undoubtedly saw the largest expansion of organized innocence work in history.  Well-attended innocence conferences were held in 5 different continents.  Organizations designed to free the innocent operated in every inhabited continent, and new projects launched in various Latin American countries, France, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Israel, and Taiwan, among others.  Here is a brief summary:

  • The Innocence Network, which currently consists of more than 60 member projects in the U.S., UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia, issued its 2012 report, which lists the members and summarizes the 22 exonerations  its members obtained in the calendar year.  Major conferences on the subject were held in Australia, the UK and the U.S.
  • A network of organizations fighting for the innocent was launched in Latin America, Red Inocente (website here).  Red Inocente held its first annual conference in July, which was attended by more than 70 representatives from various Latin American countries.  Presentations were made about innocence efforts underway in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico.  Details of conference here.  The second annual conference will be held in 2013 in Buenos Aires.  Red Inocente has already seen its first exoneration, which occurred this year in Argentina.
  • In Europe, the UK has had a rich history of innocence work for decades, most recently spearheaded by the Innocence Network UK, and many other university-based groups not part of INUK.  This past year has seen innocence organizations launch in the Netherlands and in Lyon, France.  The Innocence Law Clinic in Warsaw, Poland, successfully continued its operations, which have been ongoing since 1999, and the Supreme Court of Poland held a lecture on the international expansion of the Innocence Movement, sponsored by the Helsinki Foundation.  Also in Poland, a conference was held in Krakow on on the topic of wrongful convictions, attended by judges and prosecutors from across the country.  In the Czech Republic, lectures on wrongful convictions were held at 2 major law schools, summarized in this news clip.  Interest in starting an innocent project is budding in Italy, with representatives from a major law school there planning to attend the 2013 Innocence Conference and to shadow the Ohio Innocence Project this summer.
  • In Africa, the highly-organized Wits Justice Project in South Africa continued its operations with many successes; and a new Innocence Project South Africa launched
  • The Israeli Wrongful Convictions Clinic launched
  • In Asia, projects launched with much acclaim in Taiwan and the Philippines.  China held its first major conference on the topic of wrongful conviction, attended by hundreds of judges, prosecutors, professors and defense attorneys.  Two books on wrongful convictions, False Justice and Illustrated Truth, were translated and published in China.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Hundreds rally in Ukraine in support of father and son, Serhiy and Dmytro Pavlychenko, who were convicted in October of murdering a judge.  Supporters claim the pair were wrongfully convicted.
  • Court of inquiry into alleged misconduct of prosecutor-turned-judge Ken Anderson in the Michael Morton case delayed until February 2013
  • In Massachusetts, the Innocence Program at the Committee for Public Council Services is on the verge of its first exoneration in the DNA murder case of Michael J. Sullivan

How Nations Handle Extra-Territorial Breaches of their Nationals’ Right to Innocence and Miscarriages of Justice

That the world is shrinking by the day, is much more than a metaphor. It’s a reality. Nationals of nations are scattered all around the globe, seeking different realities, challenges and opportunities. In the process, they are confronted with different norms, cultures and laws which they are compelled to abide by, or face sanctions for breaches of the laws of their host countries. In effect, nationals outside their own territories, must not only comply with the laws of their host countries, but there is a continuing responsibility of their own governments to ensure that they are treated fairly,  justly and in line with internationally acceptable legal standards.

What happens when a government fails to take up that challenge on behalf of their own citizens abroad? It’s sometimes a catch twenty-two situation, given the intersection between politics and law. One thing is certain though, most international Instruments lay down certain minimum standards for the dispensation of justice and, indeed, of the trial process. Recent cases of US and Nigerian citizens with criminal processes/procedures abroad, have demonstrated that, whilst one nation takes seriously it’s continuing international obligations to its nationals; the other have simply shirked her responsibilities to it’s nationals abroad, leaving them at the mercy and vagaries of the ‘laws’ of the host countries, without regard to the fairness, justice or indeed, whether the laws of the host countries guarantees the minimum rights under international law.

With respect to the US, the recent case of Jason Puracal (An American citizen) in Nicaragua was handled ‘fairly’ well, if for nothing, the drawing of the attention of the US Congress (43 House of Representatives members) to his plight, and the calling of the attention of the United Nations, declaring the Nicaraguan judicial system as flawed and a violation of international law. Read archived post on this case here.

That Nigerian nationals face legal hurdles and challenges abroad is well documented. What is not well appreciated is the response of the Nigerian government, and it’s attitude to her nationals undergoing criminal processes abroad. In Indonesia for instance, there are a sizeable number of Nigerians who have alleged that, their right to justice, and sometimes, outright miscarriages of justice have occurred; which has left them wrongfully imprisoned, some on death row, and others, actually have been executed without due process. Read here and here

There is the on-going trial of a Nigerian pastor in Austria – Pastor Joshua Esosa -for ‘drug related offenses’, which he vigorously denies. He was made to undergo criminal processes in Austria which resulted in his ‘conviction and sentence’, whereupon he appealed the decision. An appellate court in Austria, it seems, have ordered the remittal of his case for re-trial de novo. That re-trial commenced, or rather, took place on the 6th of June, 2012. The point here is that, Pastor Joshua Esosa practically shouted himself hoarse, before he was given the right of re-trial, despite the unfairness of the initial trial process; and the Nigerian Embassy appearing to have utterly failed him. Read his story here

In conclusion, the anecdotal facts above, clearly demonstrate that governments owe it’s own nationals obligations to ensure that they are given a fair trial abroad. That obligation is a continuing one. It must be exercised responsibly in line with internationally acceptable legal standards. Where those domestic standards falls short of universally acceptable norms, by virtue of its continuing obligations, it behooves governments to engage on her nationals’ behalf to ensure justice is done. The Nigerian government must now begin to learn to shift grounds, and explore not only legal measures, but political means to protect her nationals abroad.

Innocence in the Czech Republic…

Daniel Vanek, DNA expert in the Czech Republic

I am in the Czech Republic lecturing over the next few days about the Innocence Movement.  I am so heartened and inspired when I go to countries like this to find kindred souls who are on the ground educating, teaching, and fighting for justice for the innocent.  DNA specialist Daniel Vanek is that person in the Czech Republic, and I am honored to be able to to spend time with someone who is this passionate about the movement.  I will write more later when I’m back to the States, but wanted to share now a video that was on national television in the Czech Republic this weekend about Daniel and his fight for forensic controls and the wrongfully convicted.

Innocence in Poland…

This is me speaking today about the international innocence movement to the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic Poland (Constitutional Court is highest court, equivalent of U.S. Supreme Court, on constitutional matters) and lawyers and judges from the Warsaw area.  Seated at the center of the table is the moderater, Wojciech Hermelinski, one of the 15 justices.

I’ll post some in the coming weeks about my experiences in Poland.  Among those posts will be a highlight of the excellent work being done by Maria Ejchart and the Innocence Clinic in Warsaw, connected to local law schools and supported by the Helsinki Foundation.  I’ll also comment about the reactions of some prosecutors and judges to the movement in Poland….

Now it’s off the Czech Republic for 3 speeches in 2 days……