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.

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 potential to make access to justice a reality across Sierra Leone.

Dated the 19th day of April 2010

Signed:

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
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 Road, Freetown

16. Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai
Society for Democratic Initiatives
Second Floor, 25 Pademba Road, Freetown