The national conference on access to justice was organised in collaboration with the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, the Instance Nationale de Lutte Contre la Traite des Personnes (national anti-human trafficking commission), the Tunisian National Bar Association, the World Organisation Against Torture, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Amal Association for the family and the child, the Association Tunisienne de Défense des Libertés Individuelles (Tunisian association for the defence of individual freedoms), the Association Damj, and the Tunisian Human Rights League.
Photos © Afkart Studio for ASFContinue reading “Tunisia: making access to justice a reality for all”
Pictures: The official opening ceremony for the legal clinic took place on 28 September 2017 at the Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Sciences of Mohammedia © ADALAContinue reading ““Justice for All” legal clinic: a first in Morocco”
Picture © ASF/G. DurduContinue reading “ASF in Chad: a glance at the past and toward the future”
Photo: Training organised by the Indonesia Legal Resource Center, one of the two ASF’s partners in Indonesia © ILRCContinue reading “Belgian Ministry for Development earmarks funding for access to justice”
- ASF opens an office in Congo. Some 95 % of the population has no knowledge of the law nor of legal processes.
- Intensive training for magistrates is set up in different provinces. The transitional constitution is translated into four vernacular languages.
- Partnership launched with the library of the Faculty of Law, Kinshasa University.
- Opening of the first ‘legal clinic’ in Kinshasa’s Kasa Vubu district, in partnership with the Women Lawyers’ Association in Congo. The clinic sees about 250 people a month to provide clear, understandable legal advice. Launch of awareness-raising and information campaigns in markets, outside churches, etc.
- First mobile courts organised. Tribunals travel to remote locations.
- ASF runs a regional project covering Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and campaigning against torture.
- Efforts are stepped up to break the cycle of impunity in international crimes. ASF offers legal assistance to both victims and defendants in trials conducted within Congo, as well as to victims appearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
- ASF campaigns against impunity in sex crimes, rampant throughout the country. Projects are launched to bring perpetrators to justice. These include support for local NGOs, capacity-building for lawyers, awareness-raising, legal advice and representation in court for victims, studies and publications.
- ASF undertakes strategic litigation involving human rights defenders under threat, such as those involving Floribert Chebeya and the Sirforco Company in Yalisika. In contributing to bringing about justice for those involved, ASF works towards achieving sustainable legal remedies to combat the problems at stake.
- ASF helps seven communities in Lisala in Equator to defend their rights against logging companies.
- ASF’s Uhaki Safi project is set up to raise awareness of rights, responding to the needs of those seeking justice, and improving provision of legal services.
- ASF campaigns against widespread illegal detentions before trial.
- ASF supports human rights defenders and other civil society activists taking part in debates on democracy, to strengthen their influence and enable widespread participation in public debates during the electoral process.
- ASF steps up its efforts to promote access to justice in Congo, supporting those taking part in conflict prevention and resolution, and strengthening mechanisms that can help to consolidate peace.
Kinshasa, 8 April 2016 – For the last two years, with the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation, Avocats Sans Frontières has been working actively with the Bar Associations of the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to combat the abusive and sometimes even illegal use of preventive detention in the country. The key aspects of this project were the development of the capacity of individuals held in detention to understand and to take action, the legal representation of detainees by specifically trained lawyers and the highlighting of the catastrophic conditions of detention, and the causes underlying the very widespread use of preventive detention.
Preventive detention is a measure aimed at depriving a person of their liberty while they are awaiting trial. It should only ever be considered as an exceptional measure, and strictly in accordance with the law, since the person detained under these conditions is still presumed innocent.
In the DR Congo, as in many countries, the reality is different. In fact, the vast majority of the prison population is made up of these detainees awaiting trial (between 75% and 82% according to the available figures) and who are often imprisoned illegally, given the lack of compliance with national laws and international standards establishing the conditions under which a person may be arrested and detained.
To date, within the framework of the Na Bosembo Tokokani project, 90 Congolese lawyers have raised awareness for 1,500 people in relation to their rights, have received some 1,500 detainees during legal consultations and have filed more than 2,000 petitions before competent judges in order to review the legality of the detention. When the detention was shown to be illegal or unjustified, the lawyers requested the release of their clients.
These activities, which were coordinated by the Bar Associations of Kinshasa-Matete, Kinshasa-Gombe, Matadi and Mbandaka, have offered legal aid services to the specific category of vulnerable people consisting of detainees awaiting trial. They have also helped to identify, understand and attempt to correct the serious shortcomings in the mechanisms for detention in the DR Congo. Within this context, two studies have been conducted in the province of Kongo Central, providing the opportunity to question those Congolese involved with detention about their experiences, and also to meet a large number of inmates held in Matadi prison. This research highlighted how the measure of detention as envisaged strictly in accordance with the law is frequently hijacked for the benefit of vested pecuniary interests.
The findings derived from activities of information, legal advice and legal representation for detainees, but also from the research and from the meetings with those involved in detention, mean that the 8 and 9 April 2016 will feature three important meetings in Kinshasa: a round-table discussion bringing together stakeholders from the prison, legal and administrative systems in relation to detention, a conference on legal practices and the alternatives to detention to which are invited all interested people and, finally, a photography exhibition by Rosalie Colfs which will illustrate testimonials from people who relate their stories about detention.
* Download the study Pour quoi détenir? Réalités de la détention des personnes en RD Congo (PDF in French)
* Download the study Expériences de la détention dans la prison centrale de Matadi (PDF in French)
Coverpicture © Rosalie Colfs for ASF
N’Djamena, 7 December 2015 – Despite justice reforms undertaken in recent years, the population of Chad still encounters numerous obstacles when trying to obtain access to justice. Given this situation, civil society organisations (CSOs) are taking action and providing legal advice and assistance. Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) is supporting three of these CSOs in their efforts to protect human rights.
The population of Chad knows very little about its rights, especially outside of towns. Customary rules are still very influential. There are very few lawyers (174 lawyers for a population of 11 million inhabitants). These are almost all based in the capital N’Djamena, so the majority of Chadians are not able to make use of their expertise to assert their rights.
Given this situation, CSOs have been taking action for a number of years now. “We do the work of the public services that are almost non-existent: we make citizens more aware of their rights and offer them free legal advice, legal assistance and mediation services”, explains Marthe Dorkagoum. This magistrate is a member of the executive office and charged with public relations for the AFJT (l’Association des Femmes Juristes du Tchad – Association of Women Lawyers in Chad), one of three CSO partners in the ASF project “Improving access to justice for persons in vulnerable situations in Chad”.
The needs are enormous. “Our lawyers and paralegals take care of the disenfranchised, especially women who do not know their rights in the area of inheritance or who are subject to serious domestic violence”, shares Oyal Ngarassal, who presides over another CSO partner , the Public Interest Law Center (PILC). “It comes to a point where these people have had enough of suffering and take the step of coming to see us so they can defend themselves and assert their rights.”
Within the framework of the project, ASF gives technical support to the CSOs, in particular via training workshops and exchanges. Recently, the three partner organisations participated in a workshop dedicated to communication techniques. “How do you explain to the husbands that we are not there to turn their wives against them, but to make sure that their basic rights are being respected?” Yes, it is crucial to be able to communicate well in our line of work”, says Oyal Ngarassal. This is confirmed by Marthe Dorkagoum: “Not only the people, but also the local authorities need to have a better understanding of what it is that we do.”
The Vice President of the APLFT (Association pour la Promotion des Libertés Fondamentales au Tchad – Association for the Promotion of Fundamental Freedoms in Chad), Ali Mbodou, acknowledges the value of these workshops. “For us, it’s a plus. It’s a sharing of experiences.”
Apart from this technical support, ASF provides financial support that will enable the CSOs to provide legal advice and judicial assistance services (AJJ) to the population – in particular to women, children and persons in detention.
The AFJT, the APLFT and the PILC carry out complementary activities and cover different geographical areas. Together, they make up more than 500 lawyers and paralegals. Within the framework of the ASF project 30,000 people have already been made aware of their rights, 2,000 people have received legal advice and 200 people have benefited from the help of a lawyer.
The ASF project “Improving access to justice for persons in vulnerable situations in Chad”, continues until May 2016, with financial help from the European Union.
Pictures: Three civil society organisations in Chad are mobilising to guarantee that the population receives legal aid services. Cover picture (left to right): Oyal Ngarassal from the Public Interest Law Center, Ali Mbodou from l’Association pour la Promotion des Libertés Fondamentales au Tchad (Promotion of the Fundamental Freedoms in Chad) and Marthe Dorkagoum from l’Association des Femmes Juristes du Tchad (Women Lawyers’ Association of Chad). N’Djamena, November 2015 © ASF/G. Van Moortel
Bangui, 27/08/2015 – ASF (Avocats Sans Frontières) has recently launched support activities to help facilitate better access to justice in the Central African Republic. In the wake of successive politico-military crises, the country’s judicial institutions need to be rebuilt. In collaboration with legal stakeholders, the Bar association and civil society, ASF’s actions aim to contribute to improving access to justice for vulnerable people.
In 2012-2013, the Central African Republic (CAR) experienced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, leading to the deaths of thousands of people and displacing whole populations. Today, relative calm has descended on this country and its 4.6 million inhabitants, which has been rocked by politico-military crises since its independence in 1960.
The need for justice is great. The 120 lawyers who make up the Bar are all gathered in the capital Bangui, working in difficult conditions. Civil society organisations (CSO) remain very weak.
“The justice system in the Central African Republic is weak, slow and costly. It is a two-speed justice: one speed for the wealthy and one for the poor”, stated Arsène Sende, Inspector General for Justice.
The justice sector has a severe lack of funds, with a budget representing only 0.15% of the overall public budget. This has resulted in numerous consequences, including widespread impunity and corruption. Justice no longer fulfils its role to protect citizens and guarantee their rights, and is widely mistrusted by the population.
This analysis was shared during the first workshop for the official launch of ASF’s activities in the CAR in July in Bangui. Representatives from judicial institutions (the Ministries for Justice and Planning, the Inspectorate General for Justice, the Judicial Council, the Bar) and international donors were present.
The Minister for Justice’s Cabinet celebrated the arrival of ASF at a time when “the Constitutional Charter for transition prioritises access to justice for all”. According to its Director, the Central African judicial system will be able to “benefit from ASF’s expertise regarding (access to) justice in the countries of the Great Lakes sub-region”.
The stakes are high as the task is to (re)build the rule of law. “The justice system can expedite or hinder a country’s development through its organisation and operation, and it is now up to the people of the Central African Republic to choose what they want”, believes Mr Sende, Inspector General for Justice.
“Our project is developing against a backdrop of real needs and expectations regarding access to justice, in particular for vulnerable people”, explains Boubacar Diabira, head of the ASF mission in Bangui.
The ASF team will implement the following activities: disseminating the law to the population and stakeholders in the justice system, supporting civil society organisations to help them relaunch legal aid services and support for coordinating legal aid, supporting mobile courts with birth registration and capacity-building for lawyers and civil society organisations.
Mainly financed by the European Union (budget: EUR 352,000), the project will last for 24 months.