Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI)


Leaders of the 2015 AIJI Summer Institute in Bali, Indonesia. Director of AIJI, David Cohen, is on the right.

The Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI) focuses on projects and partnerships related to international justice, judicial reform, the rule of law, and human rights in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. More than a decade old, AIJI is a collaboration between the East-West Center (EWC) and the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University (previously known as the Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center).

AIJI combines the Asia-Pacific regional expertise of the EWC and the transitional justice research and human rights training capabilities of the Handa Center. The Initiative was formed in recognition of the joint aim of the two centers to promote standards of excellence in international justice and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Under the AIJI umbrella, the Handa Center and EWC work in close partnership with regional and country-specific institutions to promote human rights education, understanding, and awareness of internationally recognized fair trial standards, as well as requirements for accountability and the rule of law, especially in international criminal trials and human rights proceedings in national courts.

Current activities are summarized in the March 2016 AIJI flyer.

Professor David Cohen, a leading expert in international humanitarian law and international criminal law, directs all AIJI activities. Cohen is a Senior Fellow at the East-West Center and Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i. Christoph Sperfeldt serves as AIJI Deputy Director. Other AIJI associates are based in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Australia.

AIJI collaborates with a number of university-based centers around the world, including the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE) and Pannasastra University in Cambodia, Macquarie University in Australia, the University of Zurich Human Rights Center in Switzerland, Universitas Udayana in Indonesia, the University of Munich and the War Crimes Documentation Center at the University of Marburg in Germany, the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law in Vietnam, and the International Institute for Child Rights and Development at the University of Victoria in Canada. AIJI also collaborates with criminal tribunals around the world.

Current AIJI Projects

AIJI is currently involved in a number of projects in Southeast Asia, some focusing at the national level in Cambodia, East Timor, and Indonesia, and others aimed more broadly at the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Current Projects in the ASEAN Region

At the regional level, AIJI partners with the Human Rights Resource Centre (HRRC) of ASEAN to support important regional human rights research and policy advocacy. AIJI also co-hosts regional Summer Institutes in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights every year in collaboration with the HRRC.

Current Projects in Cambodia

AIJI has had an office in Phnom Penh since 2007. The focus of work in Cambodia is largely on transitional justice through trial monitoring and community-outreach programming related to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Additional work aims at capacity building within the justice sector through legal education partnerships with local universities.

Support for Judicial Reform in Timor-Leste

AIJI Director, David Cohen, is a recognized expert on Timor-Leste and has been deeply engaged with transitional justice efforts there since 2003. In late 2015, Cohen and AIJI associate Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb completed a report, titled Justice at the crossroads in Timor-Leste and published by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). The report examines the fallout from the controversial decision to expel international judges and the possibilities opened up by full “Timorisation” of the judiciary. The authors conclude that Timor-Leste needs a radical overhaul of its judicial system and there may be an opening now to push forward with reform. The report’s detailed list of recommendations underscores the amount of work that needs to done, especially on professional training, access to justice, and meeting basic fair-trial standards. The country still has no independent bar association, and the current system of registering to practice law is so restrictive that very few private lawyers manage to meet the criteria, despite hundreds of law graduates being produced by local universities. The authors note, however, that there is broad consensus across the government and political elite that major change is required.

Strengthening the Performance of Anti-Corruption Law in Indonesia

Since 2003, AIJI has been involved in a variety of judicial capacity-building projects in partnership with the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office of Indonesia. Current work focuses on the recently established anti-corruption courts.

In 2015, AIJI began a three-year project in partnership with the Institute for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) and the Handa Center to train lawyers to monitor proceedings in the newly established Indonesian Anti-Corruption Courts. Funded by a European Union grant to ELSAM, this project involves monitoring Anti-Corruption Courts in five cities—Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Makassar, and Medan. The project provides training to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in each city on court monitoring and the design of research-based advocacy.

Through the project, AIJI and its local implementing partners aim to increase the capacity of civil-society organizations, law students, and law teachers to monitor and report on anti-corruption proceedings. The project also seeks to develop policy recommendations for improving the professional-development curriculum for anti-corruption judges and prosecutors.

Recently Completed AIJI Projects

Over the past decade, AIJI has completed numerous training initiatives, monitoring programs, and workshops. These included a trial observation program at the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh, community outreach efforts linked to justice-sector reform, and numerous transitional justice and rule-of-law workshops in Cambodia, East Timor, and Indonesia and at the regional level for ASEAN bodies. More details are provided under the following headings:

Selected Publications

Palmer, Emma, and Christoph Sperfeldt (2016).  International criminal justice and Southeast Asia:  Approaches to ending impunity for mass atrocities. AsiaPacific Issues No. 126.  Honolulu:  East-West Center.

Sperfeldt, Christoph, Melanie Hyde, and Mychelle Balthazard (2016). Voices for reconciliation: Assessing media outreach and survivor engagement for Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge trials. Honolulu: East-West Center and WSDHANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

Brunner, Jessica (2015). Inaccurate numbers, inadequate policies: Enhancing data to evaluate the prevalence of human trafficking In ASEAN. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Cohen, David, and Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb (2015). Justice at the crossroads. IPAC Report No. 22. Jakarta: Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

Cohen, David, Melanie Hyde, and Penelope Van Tuyl, with Stephanie Fung (2015). A well-reasoned opinion? Critical analysis of the first case against the alleged senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Hyde, Melanie, Emma Palmer, and Sarah Williams (2014). Transformative reparations for sexual and gender-based violence at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC): Reflections, recommendations and next steps. Report of a Workshop held on 28 November 2014 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Centre and the Asian International Justice Initiative.

Sperfeldt, Christoph (2014). Broadcasting justice: Media outreach at the Khmer Rouge trials. Asia Pacific Issues No. 115. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Cohen, David (2010). ASEAN’s Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and civil society initiatives in Southeast Asia. Asia Pacific Bulletin No. 51. Washington, DC: East-West Center.

Lipscomb, Leigh-Ashley (2010). Beyond the truth: Can reparations move peace and justice forward in Timor-Leste? AsiaPacific Issues No. 93. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Kelsall, Michelle Staggs (2009). The new ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights: Toothless tiger or tentative first step? AsiaPacific Issues No. 90. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Kelsall, Michelle Staggs, Mary Kristerie A. Baleva, Aviva Nababan, Vineath Chou, Rachel Guo, Caroline Ehlert, Sovannith Nget, and Savornt Pheak (2009). Lessons learned from the "Duch" trial: A comprehensive review of the first case before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Report produced by the Asian International Justice Initiative's KRT Trial Monitoring Group.

Cohen, David (2006). Indifference and accountability: The United Nations and the politics of international justice in East Timor. Special Report No. 9. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Cohen, David (2006). ‘Justice on the cheap’ revisited: The failure of the serious crimes trials in East Timor. AsiaPacific Issues No. 80. Honolulu: East-West Center.

Cohen, David (August 2002). Seeking justice on the cheap: Is the East Timor tribunal really a model for the future?  AsiaPacific Issues No. 61. Honolulu: East-West Center.

AIJI Team Members

Related to staff: