Access to Justice

Access to justice is a right.  In most developed countries, this access is facilitated by a system of legal advice and aid subsidised by the government.  However, for a number of reasons, in the countries where ASF works these systems are lacking, and their absence limits the free access of vulnerable persons to the courts and other mechanisms for resolution of litigation.

ASF develops and implements, in partnership with local entities, mechanisms that remove obstacles (logistical and financial constraints, shortage of lawyers, etc.) to effective access to justice for various types of vulnerable persons (victims of sexual violence, minors in conflict with the law, victims of international crimes, victims of torture, etc.). These mechanisms are adapted to the legal, social and political context, to ensure their relevance and effectiveness.  ASF adapts its model of intervention from one country to the next, and therefore each programme is to a certain extent unique.

ASF promotes the following mechanisms:

  • Legal aid centres and mobile legal aid centres: offering both permanent and mobile legal aid in ‘first instance’ free of cost for those who wish to make use of these services.  The services are organised, depending on the situation, in partnership with local NGOs, bar associations, and/or individual lawyers.
  • Mobile court hearings: involving the transfer of the entire court (registrar, judges, prosecutor) to remote rural areas where the population has no access to justice due to their lack of mobility.  Teams of lawyers are also sent to the locations to assist people in need to prepare their case files for trial.  Together with local NGOs, ASF prepares the population by organising information sessions prior to the arrival of the court.  These NGOs are also trained so that they can play a role in the monitoring of trials and gathering feedback from beneficiaries.
  • The defence of defendants and victims before local courts: ASF makes lawyers available to defend the most vulnerable throughout the legal process.  To ensure a quality defence, lawyers receive training on a variety of topics.
  • Representation of victims before the International Criminal Court: ASF provides legal support to victims up until the official designation of lawyers by the Court registrar, while also advocating with the Court to ensure the best possible protection for rights of victims and their optimal participation in trials.

With a view to ensuring the ultimate takeover of these mechanisms by local entities, ASF builds the capacities of NGOs and bar associations via institutional and organisational support and/or training sessions.

legal consultation in Soroti, Uganda © ASF

See here for an overview of ASF’s access to justice programme (Pdf).

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consultation juridique à Soroti, Ouganda © ASF

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