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OPERATIVE LEGAL AID: AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ACCESS TO JUSTICE Part: 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BANKOLE CLIFFORD EKUNDAYO MORGAN, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE.   
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 21:28

(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely those of the author)

In every state, the justice system can be properly evaluated based on the manner in which the poor and vulnerable people do access justice. Effective administration of justice is the cornerstone of good governance, rule of law and human rights.  The enjoyment of the right to access to justice and the dispensation of justice in any state must not stand on political influence or affluent. It is prejudicialto discriminate against the poor and vulnerable persons wanting to access justice.

The justice system of any state must not be operating in a way that the poor and vulnerable are discriminated against due to their inability to hire the services of legal practitioners.  The right to access to justice essentially is one of the fundamental human rights. In my view, Justice surpasses the boundaries of a single legal system. In actual fact, Justice is a virtue and in essence, it is more than a sector and even more than a power. The right to access to justice is one of the most important human rights and it is conceived as both a means and an end to justice.

LEGAL AID SYSTEM

Establishing a legal Aid system in any state is one way by which the government can provide for the poor and vulnerable people to enable them have access to justice. Legal aid is a medium by which the poor and vulnerable people in society will enjoy the right to access to justice without any limitation.  It is obvious that without an effective and or operative legal system, the poor and vulnerable people will continue to wallow in despair by facing huge challenges in accessing justice.  Access to justice is a human right which ought to be protected by law and guaranteed by the state. When a state fails to create the enabling environment for the promotion and protection of fundamentalhuman rights, those rights will definitely become meaningless.  The fact is access to justice is a germane component of the Rule of Law.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE CAN BE PERCEIVED AS A MEANS AND AN END TO JUSTICE

Access to justice can be perceived as both a means and an end to justice. It is a means as it concerns the efficient method of enabling users of justice system to benefit from the end product of justice. Likewise, it can be perceived as an end, in the protection of an individual’s right to justice through ease of access when the need arises. The lack of access to justice and or the unfair dispensation of justice in any state will ultimately undermine the tenets of good governance, rule of law and human rights.

THE POPULARLY KNOWN PHRASE “RULE OF LAW”

The popularly known phrase “Rule of Law” is frequently used but little explained or understood that no one is above the law. The term ‘rule of law’ can be interpreted as the restriction of arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established rules or guidelines. Effective legal aid has undoubtedly been deemed one of the most important aspects of access to justice. The fight in the promotion and protection of the right to access to justice must not be hindered by anyone. This means public officials, rule of law and development advocates are therefore energized to implement new strategies to ensure that the right to access to justice is constructively promoted and protected. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that this very important Rule of Law guarantee is not sacrificed due to other factors like unavailability of funds.

FINANCING AN EFFECTIVE LEGAL AID SHOULD BE OF PRIORITY TO GOVERNMENT

The plain truth is that for a Legal Aid scheme to function effectively, government must in the first place aware of the fact thatthere are huge number ofmembers of the public likethe poor and vulnerable ones who are suffering in accessing justice. Secondly, government must have passion for these people, and thirdly, government must be committed in providing consistent and adequate funding to the Legal Aid Board. It is an established fact that operative legal aid has undoubtedly been deemed the most important aspect of access to justice. In developing and developed countries, financing of an effective legal aid program is of priority to governments.A central reasoning is that the extent to which legality is valued, facilitated and guaranteed by the treatment of the necessary components is a determinant of whether the said components work to make legal aid systems effective.

LEGAL AID SYSTEM OUGHT TO BE SUSTAINABLE AND DEMAND-ORIENTED

The point is made that effectiveness of law, being a cognitive institution, requires that the legal aid system is sustainable and demand-oriented, being targeted at the needs of the most needy “rights-holders” and constantly being monitored and evaluated, albeit avoiding bureaucracy. The legal aid service should be comparable to paid legal services and be aimed at client-satisfaction or high clients’ approval. Where possible, it should facilitate diversion from litigation to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), to save the poor and vulnerable people from the challenges faced in courts and the strain on public funds.A few examples of the kinds of cases which have traditionally qualified for legal aid include: when someone with dementia is facing eviction and cannot fight the case against their local authority by themselves; when a victim of domestic violence needs to ensure safety for themselves (and in many cases also their children); and when someone has been accused of committing a crime.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT

Access to justice as a fundamental human right and it can be render meaningless if government does not create the enabling environment for the poor and the vulnerable ones to enjoy it without any discrimination. Legal aid is essential to guaranteeing equal access to justice for the poor and the vulnerable people in society.Normally, laws have been known to exist and the essence for that is to regulate human behaviour. Law regulates society and sets standards by which the rights of every individual or creature, their person or property are respected promoted and protected. Sierra Leone as a state is a member of the world community and being such must be governed by certain rules which ensure that society operate regularly like other members of the global community. From that we observe that the law itself forms a social instrument which acts as a lubricating oil for the effectiveness of society. Therefore, an effective and operative legal aid system is an important aspect of access to justice.Conclusively,establishing a legal Aid system in any state is one way by which the government can provide for the poor and vulnerable people to enable them have access to justice

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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ACC CAPACITATES SIERRA LEONE COMMERCIAL BANK STAFF ON ANTI-BRIBERY AND ANTI-CORRUPTION ISSUES

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on the request of the Management of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) on Thursday 20th July, 2017 commenced anti- bribery and anti-corruption training with staff of the Bank.

The training which was held in the Bank's Conference Room 9th Floor, Christian Smith Building 29/31 Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown attracted over twenty members of the Executive Management.

Addressing colleagues, the Managing Director, SLCB, Idrissa Aloma Kamara disclosed that the Bank has integrated into the Bank's operations anti-corruption measures, such as the development of anti-corruption policy, anti-graft messages inscribed on Bank Statements and sensitization of staff on the dangers of corruption. With all these, the MD stated, it is the view of the Bank that the ACC which is the statutory body responsible for the campaign against corruption be brought in, to provide awareness training on anti-bribery issues for an efficient and effective banking system.

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Media News

Freedom of Expression Violations Rise Sharply in West Africa

The incidents of freedom of expression rights violations in West Africa more than tripled in the first quarter (January-March) of 2017.

Over the three-month period, a total of 47 violations were recorded as against 14 violations for the last quarter (October-December) of 2016. The violations recorded in the quarter under review range from arrests and detentions to physical attacks, online violations, shutdown of media houses, censorship, seizure and destruction of property and killings. The 47 violations occurred in 10 out of the 16 countries in West Africa.

These findings are contained in the latest edition of the West Africa Freedom of Expression Monitor, a quarterly report by the MFWA which analyses and highlights freedom of expression developments in the sub-region.

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Commentary

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT

A PASSIONATE LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT:  44TH EDITION

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT
 Your Excellency Sir,
 It’s been six months since I subscribed to my usual publications of this piece. And this is primarily because I have been out of the country for the entire period, and as such would not normally objectively tender a subscription. I do apologize to my readers for this. So having being in Monrovia, Liberia for the recently concluded ECOWAS Summit, I would like to do some analysis on such a historic august body and gathering of this sub-Saharan/West African region.
 
In resume, among other crucial achievements, ECOWAS, through its military apparatus, ECOMOG, played very sacrificial and invaluable roles in bringing peace, security and democratic governance to both Sierra Leone and Liberia during their past civil wars, and most recently ensuring that the Gambian people’s democratic change of government from the notorious dictatorial twenty seven years regime of Yaya Jarmeh, to the current government of President Adama Barrow, through their tactical robust intervention, overseen by President Helen JohnsonSirleaf of Liberia and other ECOWAS Presidents/actors, was enforced. Furthermore, ECOWAS has also spearheaded the enactment of several socio-political, advocacy and economic treaties in the sub region.
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View Point

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Honestly speaking Sierra Leoneans are well known for their hospitality all over the world, especially in Africa. But ironically many of them hate each other. But they love foreigners. They have high respect for strangers. But unfortunately they do not have respect among themselves. You can attest this to what is happening in the social media. Where they are showing their pull him down (PhD) syndrome. By castigating their compatriots unnecessarily. Some of them just because of jealousy and envious evil spirit they possess. They prefer to promote foreigners than their own brothers and sisters both in and out of the country.

Day in day out they are insulting each other.They are using all sorts of vulgar languages against each other. And even their own highly respected president in the world, President Ernest Bai Koroma they are insulting him openly. Therefore, it is an open secret that many Sierra Leoneans are not well cultured.

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News - Press Release

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Ms. Browne wants the Board to hold outreach events in the village to educate the people on issues of law relating to domestic violence, gender, women’s rights, redress mechanisms and support services for victims.

‘We want to benefit from the Legal Aid Board’s Legal Empowerment Programme because there is an urgent need for one in the community,’ Ms. Browne told the Executive Director of the Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles on the phone. ‘The situation is desperate. I am afraid if you do not come in now the situation could spiral out of control.’

The call follows series of referral of victims of domestic violence to the Legal Aid Board office in Freetown. The latest victim sent to the Board is one Baindu who was battered by her boyfriend Borbor Abu in the presence of their one year old son.

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The items include seed rice, maize, agro chemicals, fertilizer, pesticides and power tillers for farmers within the western area district. Dignitaries present included The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food security Prof. Monty Jones and his entourage ,  Mr Shen Xiaokai, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, the District agricultural officer, the Chinese technical team, National federation of farmers Sierra Leone representative and lot of farmers in the western Area.

During his statement, Mr Shen said for over 40 years China has been fulfilling its commitment to Sierra Leone with regard the agricultural technical cooperation project.

He said China will continue to assist Sierra Leone in its developmental strides by providing technical support and assistance and by also providing training to help develop the human resource capacity of the workforce.

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Development

30 Staff of the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development will go China for Seminar on Economic Planning

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The Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Freetown, Mr. Shen Xiaokai met with the 30 participants at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) on 2rd August 2017. In his remarks he told the participants that in December 2016, His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Momodu Kargbo visited China, where they had high level bilateral meetings with Chinese Government Officials. 

He said this seminar is as a result of those meetings. “When China makes a commitment, China will fulfil it” he reiterated. He said The Ministry of Finance is one of the most important ministries in this country, therefore this seminar was designed specifically to meet the needs of the ministry.

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Politics

News from China, June 28th: Youth Affairs Minister addresses 2017 Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation in Capacity Development in Beijing, China
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Hon. Bai Mamoud Bangura spoke on Wednesday, 28th June, 2017, at the start of the week long Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation, which has brought together participants from various countries, including eight (8) from Sierra Leone.
 
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