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TIMAP for Justice and JSDP host community mediation programme review

TIMAP for Justice and JSDP host community mediation programme review

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 24 January 2011 – Timap for Justice, with Support from the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP), is hosting a Review meeting on the Community Mediation Programme (CMP), on Tuesday 25th January 2011, at the British Council Tower Hill, Freetown.

Judges, Magistrates, and other legal service providers, Paramount Chiefs; and representatives from the Sierra Leone Police, the Prisons Service, UN Agencies, NGOs and Civil Society, will grace this event.

Presentations will cover, the Community Mediation Programme (CMP) as a viable model in the current international   discourse on Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms; its effectiveness in resolving disputes at the community level; and how it complements the formal legal system.

The Government of Sierra Leone’s Justice Sector Reform Strategy, estimates that the formal justice system is inaccessible to approximately 70% of the population which uses Local Courts and other Customary Law resolution mechanisms. Most of these mechanisms are discriminatory, particularly against youths, women and children.

Thus the CMP, supported by JSDP and implemented by Timap for Justice, started from August 2009 to December 2010, focusing on the resolution of disputes at community level, through mediation. The CMP is a model of mediation first established in Africa by the Paralegal Advisory Services Institute (PASI) in Malawi, as the Village Mediation Programme (VMP).

The goal of mediation is not just to stop a problem but to achieve reconciliation through a process which entails addressing the parties’ interests and needs; and seeking settlement through mutual agreement. The objectives of the CMP include, building the capacity of communities to resolve their day-to-day disputes, thereby minimising the risk of civil disputes becoming criminalized and minor offences escalating into serious crimes. Common issues addressed include domestic violence, child abandonment, police abuse, economic exploitation and abuse of traditional authority.

The project was piloted in 4 chiefdoms within the Northern and Southern Provinces, where the CMP trained a total of 300 community-based mediators. Their responsibilities include, mediating family disputes, and minor criminal offenses in their respective villages. Since CMP’s inception close to 2,000 cases have been successfully mediated.

The skills transferred through the CMP, will empower communities to provide approachable, culturally acceptable, quick, inexpensive and effective ways to access justice and, in turn, reduce the caseloads of the formal justice institutions which, in Sierra Leone, include the local courts.

The Community Mediation Programme demonstrates the adapting of the project towards Sierra Leone’s dualist legal structure, while engaging and seeking to improve both the formal and customary institutions.

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