20 September 2013
Kathmandu – Courts dealing with criminal cases take forensic matters such as DNA profiling, post-mortem reports, and finger prints as first hand or direct evidence. Lawyers must understand these technical subjects which can play a crucial role in court decision-making. A training organised by Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), in cooperation with the Nepal Bar Association and the Women Lawyer’s Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association, supports women lawyers to improve their practice, especially in cases of women’s rights violations.
Medico-legal terminology, experts’ writing and other forensic actions used by doctors and experts in cases and trials are often difficult for lawyers and judges to understand. Yet, issues raised in these reports can be crucial in deciding the case. “Scientific evidence is important in crime investigation. Proving or disproving allegations against an accused, like DNA profiling, can help identify potential suspects”, explains Advocate Biswo Jit Khadka, ASF Program Officer in Kathmandu. “In some cases, only scientific evidence can reveal the truth. This is why the different stakeholders – including lawyers – must be able to understand this type of evidence.”
The ASF mission in Nepal is focused on improving access to justice for people in vulnerable situations, on building capacity of legal service providers, such as lawyers, and ensuring effective and quality legal aid services. In Nepal, it is particularly difficult for women lawyers to get training in medico-legal terms and practice, partly because of nepotism and favouritism but also because of gender discrimination in the selection of participants. “Yet, women lawyers need to improve their understanding in these matters, especially because they are often the ones to deal with the high number of women’s rights violations such as sexual harassment, witchcraft hunting, domestic violence, homicide, suicide and rape, and other forms of violence and discrimination against women.”- Advocate Sunil Kumar Pokharel, Secretary General of Nepal Bar Association.
This is why ASF, in cooperation with the Nepal Bar Association and the Women Lawyer’s Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association, organised a one-day training session in Kathmandu at the end of August on the “Medico-Legal Role in Effective Legal Aid” geared toward practicing women lawyers. Some 50 woman lawyers representing various Bar Associations in the country participated in this training, which included key medico-legal experts and forensic scientists.
“This training was very useful for me as I defend women’s rights. Currently, I am dealing with a case of rape and need to understand how I can best use evidence collection and results to strengthen my legal arguments”, said Advocate Ms. Radha Sigdel, member of the Kathmandu District Court Bar Association.
“By improving their knowledge in forensic sciences, we aim to support these lawyers in their work defending and protecting women and their rights”, concludes the ASF Program Officer Biswo Jit Khadka.