On 12 May 2022, the Council of Europe HELP (Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals) Programme organised a Seminar on Strengthening EU criminal justice systems. This was the final activity organised under the EU-CoE project HELP Radicalisation prevention, Judicial response to terrorism and International cooperation in criminal matters. The seminar aimed at analysing the results and impact of the project, mainly through sharing best experiences and concrete “success stories” from different jurisdictions.
The event, held online, was attended by 17 professionals from different professions (judges, prosecutors, judges, prison and probation staff, academics, government representatives, international organisation representatives, psychologists and other), from 23 countries.
Eva Pastrana - Head of the Justice and Human Rights Training Division- opened this final seminar thanking all involved in the project and emphasised the beyond expectation success of the Council of Europe HELP programme and its platform, whose number of users has more than multiplied by five in 5 years (over 100,000 users today), also in spite of the uncertain context of the past few years and months due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine following the Russian military aggression and the cessation of Council of Europe’s membership of the Russian Federation (depriving Russian people from the protection guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights).
Lena Geckle, representing the European Commission´s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers also warmly welcomed all participants and recalled that the fight against terrorism remained more than ever a very important issue for which Europe and its institutions bore a particular responsibility. She also underlined the long-standing and fruitful cooperation between the European Commission and the CoE HELP Programme before confirming that the Commission's technical and financial support will continue in view of the growing importance of certain challenges. She also referred to the European Training Portal, a search tool for justice professionals to find training courses on EU law organised in the EU and training material to train themselves including the HELP courses [which cover both CoE and EU legislation and case-law].
Eva Massa, Project Coordinator, presented the concrete results of this EU-CoE HELP project. She highlighted the wide variety of legal professionals who have benefited from the implementation of the online courses and activities. The audience reached by the project, going beyond the initial expectations, represents a first strong marker of the success of the whole programme. The project involved 765 participants from 18 EU Member States and had an impact beyond the EU, in the Westerns Balkans and South Mediterranean regions.
Willem Van Der Brugge and Miroslava Jakešová spoke in representation of the Confederation of European Probation (CEP), partner in the project. They shared their collaborative experience with the HELP programme and in particular the large number of activities implemented under the current project: in addition to the cross-border launch of the HELP course on Radicalisation Prevention, the CEP organised 3 seminars, developed vodcasts related to violent extremism and de-radicalisation, and participated in all other project activities.
The afternoon sessions focused on success stories from the project, with specific examples from different countries and professions.
In relation to judges and magistrates, Gianluca Grasso -representative of the Scuola Superiore della Magistratura and HELP Focal Point- emphasised the exponential increase in the number of participants in the HELP tutored courses in Italy (from 2000 in 2020 to nearly 8000 today). Participants in the current project improved their knowledge in of international cooperation (particularly related to the management of a European arrest warrant) where new guidelines have been proposed.
Maria Fernanda García Pérez - Magistrate at the Spanish Special Criminal Court-underlined how the activities and courses (4 editions of the HELP course in radicalisation prevention) organised within the framework of this project have had a largely beneficial legal and theorical impact on the participants who are members of Spanish training and judicial institutions.
Rebecca Mundy - Counter Terrorism Division, Crown Prosecution Service, UK and HELP tutor- underlined the impact of the project on prosecutors, both at UK and international level, namely assisting prosecutors understanding the systems of other countries and establishing more fluid communication channels.
At prison and probation level, Carlos Fernández - Spanish Prison Service - underlined the relevance of the various resources available, which have largely contributed to improving the knowledge and skills of prison staff and also within their Training Centre. HELP training on radicalisation prevention gave a chance to look at the current systems in place and the way they do things.
Jiří Lukáš Ondovčák - Czech Probation and Mediation Service- mentioned that as a consequence of attending on the project seminars, their institution managed to implement the course on radicalisation prevention at national level for over 40 probation officers. He also provided good ideas for the near future that would keep fruitful interagency cooperation in these matters.
Regarding the impact on lawyers, two examples from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Tomislav Toshkov - Attorneys' Training Center, Bulgaria and HELP Info Point – gave a very enthusiastic picture of the real impact of the programme on Bulgarian lawyers who have found the content of the training very interesting, relevant and useful. He also mentioned the significant impact on university students (future lawyers), who were very interested in HELP courses.
Lenka Vojířová -Czech Bar Association- highlighted the organisation of joint HELP courses (between the Bar and the Judiciary, but also cross-border between Slovakia and the Czech Republic), which greatly improved networking and synergies. The Bar is considering the inclusion of relevant HELP courses in compulsory or continuous training.
The project also had an impact beyond the EU. Donche BOSHKOVSKI -Cooperation in Police and Deprivation of Liberty, Council of Europe - specified that the HELP course on radicalisation prevention was adapted to the Western Balkan region, where 65 activities were implemented, from which over 1400 participants benefited.
Malika Smaali – CoE Local Office in Morocco- drew up a very concrete list of the challenges of the HELP program in Morocco, however, the course Radicalisation prevention immediately generated the interest of many Moroccan institutions (judiciary, Bar, penitentiary, etc.), which ensured a multiagency composition of the Working Group implementing activities.
Safa Cherni- CoE Local Office in Tunisia- mentioned how the adaptability of the HELP programme and especially of the radicalisation prevention course, has ensured a successful implementation in Tunisia.
The Seminar concluded with an analysis of next steps in the area of radicalisation prevention, fight against organised crime and international cooperation.
Mr. Giorgi Jokhadze, member of the Cybercrime Division of the Council of Europe- presented the new HELP course on Cybercrime and Electronic Evidence, which is already freely available in English on the HELP e-learning platform and will be translated into other languages in the coming months.
Although the project comes to an end, the impact of the courses and activities implemented will continue for many years thanks to the partnerships created with all the legal institutions that have been involved in this project. Courses on: Radicalisation Prevention, International Cooperation in Criminal Matters, and Managing Foreign National Prisoners (developed jointly with Europris), are available in many different languages on the HELP e-learning platform. They are available for self-learning and, upon completion, learners can obtain an individualised and digital ‘statement of accomplishment’.