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Establishment of a legal aid scheme for Sierra Leone – the Legal Aid bill

Establishment of a legal aid scheme for Sierra Leone – the Legal Aid bill

Open Letter

2 May 2011

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice
Guma Building
Lamina Sankoh Street

Dear Sir,

Establishment of a legal aid scheme for Sierra Leone- the Legal Aid bill

The coalition of Civil Society Organisations engaged in human rights advocacy and the provision of primary justice services to communities in Sierra Leone lauds the effort of the government of Sierra Leone to improve access to justice for everyone particularly those in rural areas. The coalition is particularly pleased with the strides the Ministry of Justice has taken recently to expedite the enactment of the legal aid bill and wish to convey its strong support for the said bill which has just been approved by Cabinet.

The coalition recalls the stakeholder consultation on the draft legal aid bill in April 2010 and again commends those participating stakeholders who helped shape and provide relevant content to the current bill. In particular, the coalition wishes to draw attention to the commitment of the government of Sierra Leone as contained in the Justice Sector Reform Strategy and Investment Plan 2008-2010 to make justice accessible for all by recognising the important roles that paralegals play in providing basic justice services. The passage of the legal aid bill represents an important step in the implementation of this Plan.

We reaffirm that the legal aid model envisaged by the legal aid bill is the most appropriate for Sierra Leone given the socio-legal context of our society. This encompasses a variety of methods, including a Government legal aid scheme and contracting services out to other providers including civil society organisations, and incorporating both civil and criminal services, and both traditional and formal sectors. With the majority of the population, particularly those in rural areas, often resorting to customary institutions to solve a wide range of justice problems and a small cadre of lawyers operating almost exclusively in the capital, a multi-faceted approach such as this is essential for the provision of accessible, low cost, high quality services.

Now that the legal aid bill has been approved by cabinet we wish to urge your ministry to continue the excellent work by promptly laying it before parliament and we take this opportunity to urge honourable members of parliament to ensure the prompt enactment of this bill into law.

We pledge our collective commitment to the implementation of the provisions of the legal aid law which has the potential to make access to justice a reality across Sierra Leone and we look forward to working, in partnership with the government, towards supporting users of the justice system through ‘the provision of widely available community-based paralegals’ across the country.

Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.

Yours faithfully,


1. Valnora Edwin Campaign for Good Governance,

11 Old Railway Line, Tengbeh Town, Freetown

2. Simeon Koroma Timap for Justice, 4E Mudge Farm, Off Aberdeen Road, Freetown
3. Marie-Louise Schueller Christian Aid, 2 Sesay Drive, Cockerill, Off Wilkinson Road, Freetown
4. Sabrina Mahtani Advocaid, c/o CARL, 30 Wellington St, Freetown
5. Patrick N Johnbull Justice and Peace Commission, Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo, 25 Kingseller St, Freetown
6. Aitor Sanchez-Lacomba International Rescue Committee, 35 Frazer St, Freetown
7. Lotta Teale Open Society Justice Initiative, 31 Murray Town Road, Freetown
8. Mohamed Suma Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, 30 Wellington St, Freetown
9. Barbara Bangura Grassroots Empowerment for Self Reliance (GEMs), 7 Percival Street, Freetown
10. Chernor M B Jalloh Access to Justice Law Center, 1 Flower Corner, Makeni
11. Salia Kpaka National Accountability Group, 18 Dundas St, Freetown
12. Abdul Manaff Kemokai Defence for Children International, 42 Siaka Stevens St, Freetown
13. Joseph Ndanema Methodist Churches Sierra Leone, Development Unit, 4 George St, Freetown

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