OpenTrial is a social-cause enterprise established by Frank Richardson, who fell back on his legal training after he was dispossessed, torn from his children and had his life turned upside down by the corrupt legal system in Indonesia.
While businesses have often profited from conflict and wars, and even caused them, OpenTrial works to advance justice and, therefore, peace and well-being. Financial sustainability is aimed at in order to ensure the long-term continuity of our work.
Unfortunately, the deprived billions, of which the majority of people in the world consist, mostly live with lawlessness and injustice ever present. Their powerlessness to stand up against abuse and exploitation is ultimately effacing and often utterly debilitating. For them things can become so dire they are compelled do that which we, in the comfortable rich world, regard as unthinkable, such as selling a young daughter to become the bride of an elderly man or to unwittingly end up as a sex slave.
Equality before the law and fair legal process would change these people's lives dramatically. They would be able to make a stand against abuse and exploitation, demand their human rights and bring the malfeasant to account. Yet the legal systems that hold sway over them are often utterly dysfunctional and for good reason; they frequently derive from culturally inappropriate foreign grafts that were designed to oppress the colonised and, in turn, were usurped by post-colonial dictators. The laws are, therefore, often disseminated in the foreign language of the former colonists, a language which may not be understood by the indigenous people. Further, police, judges and prosecutors, who were in thrall to the post-colonial autocracy, may have no concept of serving the people, let alone justice. Thus, corruption and violence may be not only pervasive and endemic, but also deeply entrenched in justice sectors that are, by their nature, very conservative and highly resistant to change.
The answer is to do precisely that which was taboo under colonialism and tyrannical post-colonial regimes, namely: provide information that furthers transparency with regard to how police, prosecutors and the judiciary function; make justice sector officials accountable; inform and strengthen civil society and engage it with the law; and facilitate the reporting of violations so that action can be taken against injustice. Computers, the internet, digital social networking, broadband, databases, apps, computer games, Artifical Intelligence, data analytics, predictive algorithms, etc. make this possible like never before.
Accordingly, OpenTrial adopts an innovative, bottom-up, results-based, data-driven dynamic approach that harnesses modern technology to: "reduce the scope for corruption, violence and human rights abuse within developing-world legal systems and, thereby, strengthen the rule of law in aid of national development and human dignity." Information provision, transparency and accountability change the law-society interface and dynamics, so that fair trials and equality before the law can become a reality by means of societal pressure. Our work is at the forefront in our field and is not for the faint-hearted, as justice systems are not the most flexible and tractable of systems.
Accolades/endorsements: the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Lawyers Without Borders, International Bridges to Justice (award winner), the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of the Law (semi-finalist); Echoing Green (semi-finalist); Center for International Legal Cooperation; Ashoka (semi-finalist); Amnesty International; Transparency International; etc.
OpenTrial's Lexposé™ initiative complies with the recommendations of Transparency International and endorsed by Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia, Director, International Law and Economic Development Center and Senior Law and Economics Scholar at Columbia University, Professor Roy A. Schotland of the Georgetown Law Center, Washington D.C., Professor Dennis Töllborg, professor in legal science at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI), University of Gothenburg, etc.
Furthermore, the distinguished South African former senior judge and current Co- Chair of the International Bar Association's Rule of Law Action Group, Richard Goldstone, says of the OpenTrial's Lexposé™ initiative that, with the support and cooperation of both the judiciary and government in question, "the project obviously has great potential for advancing the rule of law."
OpenTrial, The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia,
Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.