Joint statement on the conclusion of the two-day stakeholder consultation on the draft Legal Aid Bill 2010
The coalition of Civil Society Organisations involved in human rights advocacy and the provision of justice services to communities in Sierra Leone wishes to commend participating stakeholders at the just ended consultative meeting on the draft legal aid bill held on the 14th & 15th April 2010 at Hotel Barmoi in Freetown. (Photo: Sonkita Conteh)
In particular, the coalition lauds the commitment and resolve of the government of Sierra Leone to make justice accessible for all by recognising the important roles that paralegals play in providing services, in accordance with its pledge in the Justice Sector Reform Strategy and Investment Plan 2008-2010.
We also commend the Justice Sector Development Programme for its leadership role in this effort and for organising the stakeholder meeting which brought together important players in the justice sector to deliberate on and fine-tune the draft bill.
The coalition is pleased with the openness that characterised the two-day meeting allowing for unfettered discussions of the various aspects of the bill by participants, striving for unanimity whenever possible and seconding those points on which there were disagreements to a committee made up of representatives of the various constituencies at the meeting for resolution. We trust and anticipate that the process of developing and adopting the Legal Aid Guide will be equally consultative and follow the same process, in tandem with this refreshing spirit of frankness.
The two-day consultative meeting produced agreement on a range of issues in the draft legal aid bill including:
- sharing of responsibility for justice service provision between government, the private sector and civil society
- providing legal aid services for both criminal and civil cases reflecting the varying justice needs in Sierra Leone
- cooperation between formal justice delivery mechanisms and customary law institutions
- the role of pupil barristers in the legal aid scheme
- obligations of police and prison personnel to inform indigents about and assist them to access legal aid services
- the provision of emergency legal aid for both criminal and civil cases
We reiterate that the legal aid model captured by the draft bill is the most appropriate for Sierra Leone given the socio-legal context of our society. With the bulk of the population often favouring recourse to customary institutions to solve a wide range of justice problems and a small cadre of lawyers operating almost exclusively in the capital, a wholly lawyer-based legal aid model focusing entirely on the criminal justice sector would clearly not have been appropriate.
Now that the draft bill has been openly discussed and agreed upon, we call on all stakeholders within the justice sector, His Excellency the President, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Members of Parliament and the general public to ensure the prompt enactment of this bill into law and its implementation.
We pledge our continued commitment to the implementation of the provisions of the legal aid law which when enacted, has the potential to make access to justice a reality across Sierra Leone.
Dated the 19th day of April 2010Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
|1. Valnora Edwin
|Campaign for Good Governance,11 Old Railway Line, Tengbeh Town, FreetownÂ
|2. Simeon Koroma
|Timap for Justice, 4E Mudge Farm, Off Aberdeen road, Freetown
|3. Marie-Louise Schueller
|Christian Aid, 8 Kosie Williams Drive, 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. Lotta Teale
|Open Society Justice Initiative, 30 Murray Town road, Freetown
|7. Mohamed Suma
|Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, 30 Wellington st, Freetown
|8. Barbara Bangura
|Grassroots Empowerment for Self Reliance (GEMs), 7 Percival street, Freetown
|9. Vivek Maru
|Justice for the Poor Programme, World Bank
|10. Chernor M B Jalloh
|Access to Justice Law Center, 1 Flower Corner, Makeni
|11. Alfred Carew
|National Forum for Human Rights, 29 Big Waterloo st, Freetown
|12. Lavina Banduah
|National Accountability Group, 18 Dundas st, Freetown
|13. Abdul Manaff Kemokai
|Defence for Children International, 42 Siaka Stevens st, Freetown
|14. Joseph Ndanema
|Methodist Churches Sierra Leone, Development Unit, 4 George st, Freetown
|15. Abu Brima
|Network Movement for Justice and Development, 29 Main Motor rd, Freetown
|16.Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai
|Society for Democratic Initiatives, Second Floor, 25 Pademba road, Freetown
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