feature friday, human rights, international development, legal empowerment, public interest law

Feature Friday: Sierra Leone’s progressive new legal aid law (and some links)

Things are changing — slowly but surely — in the world of legal empowerment and legal aid. In Sierra Leone, the Parliament recently enacted “one of the most progressive legal aid laws in Africa—with an innovative approach to providing access to justice for all that will reinforce the rule of law,” as noted by the Open Society Institute’s blog. This bill was approved with consensus by Sierra Leone’s house in less than one hour. The bill provides the “legal architecture for Sierra Leone’s first nationwide legal aid system.” As OSI’s Sonkita Conteh writes,

The bill provides for a mixed model of criminal and civil legal aid, from provision of legal information and mediation services through to representation in court, and supplied through a public/private partnership of government, private sector and civil society. By explicitly providing that paralegals are to be deployed in each of Sierra Leone’s 149 chiefdoms, the law ensures that a flexible and cost effective method of delivering justice services to large parts of the population will be available, in a country that doesn’t have a sufficient supply of qualified lawyers, especially outside the capital, Freetown. In addition to paralegals it also endorses university law clinics, civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations, alongside legal practitioners, as providers of legal aid services.

And here’s a great video following the work of a community-based paralegal from Timap for Justice, a local legal empowerment organization:

And some links I loved…

Shanley Knox writes beautifully about feminism, religion, and revolutions.
“We’re the ones changing your world. We’re the women starting our own businesses and clothing lines and starting revolutions in Egypt – the women who say what we think.”

A great series on IntLawGrrls on Kony 2012, and the peace/justice divide.
“While the prosecution of Kony might have been a critical component of the justice process, many Ugandans thought it should not happen at the expense of the victims (many of whom had become refugees) who wanted to return home and rebuild their lives.”

Wonderful post at How Matters on downward accountability.
“Downward accountability is ultimately about defining impact in a way that places beneficiaries’ perceptions center-stage.”

Roxanne never fails to amaze with stories of her travels in Jerusalem.
“I feel myself gliding like a ghost through the stages of grief: denial, anger, remembrance, nostalgia. I am mourning the end of the Jerusalem chapter.”

Stanford Law Professor Erik Jensen, founder of Afghanistan Legal Education Project, writes:
“The empirical side of me knows the odds of short or even medium-term success in Afghanistan, but I’m also inspired by the people I have worked with in Afghanistan. The Afghan vision of a better future is there, and those Afghans deserve our support as we move forward.”


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