Improving Awareness and Understanding Amongst the Poor and Vulnerable
Background: The formal criminal justice system is often slow and costly, and so can be inaccessible to many people, particularly the poor and vulnerable. There are a number of initiatives underway in Enugu State to help improve the understanding of citizens of their rights and how to enforce them, as well as to introduce or strengthen more affordable and accessible means of delivering justice. Three key initiatives, which the ESJRT wants to build or help support in 2013 and beyond are:
i. The ESJRT is currently implementing a project to develop and implement a public awareness campaign on the rights and responsibilities of citizens in relation to the criminal justice system. The initial stage is about developing some Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials targeting victims, witnesses and accused persons (leaflets, booklets, jingles and radio phone-in programmes).The second stage is expected to take place later in 2013 and involve keying into existing networks and activities to do outreach at community level as a further means of improving awareness and understanding of these issues
ii. The J4A Programme, under Component 2 – Justice – is implementing a project in Enugu to introduce the use of paralegals to provide free legal information and advice in four pilot communities. This includes recruitment and training of paralegals, based on a model already successfully implemented in Malawi. However, a key challenge of the project is to ensure that legal and judicial practitioners understand and accept the benefits of a paralegal system and how it can complement services provided by professional lawyers. It is in this area that the ESJRT wishes to provide assistance, using its influence and networks to raise awareness, understanding and most importantly support for the use of paralegals at community level – as an internationally tried and tested means of providing faster, more affordable and more easily accessible justice locally, and help divert appropriate cases from the formal courts, thus helping to deal with court backlogs.
iii. The above J4A project is also helping to introduce village mediation in the same four pilot’s communities. This involves training village mediators to help resolve certain civil cases to try and avoid the need to go to a formal court. As with paralegals, it is hoped that ESJRT advocacy can help raise awareness, understanding and support amongst stakeholder and members of the public for this alternative means of dispute resolution.
Priority reform initiatives:
i. Implementation of Stage 2 of the Public Awareness Campaign on Rights and Responsibilities in relation to the criminal justice system, focusing on outreach through traditional rulers, August meetings of various CSOs, and faith-based networks at community level. (2013)
ii. Support J4A’s projects to introduce the use of paralegals and village mediation at community level, by advocating amongst justice sector stakeholders such as lawyers and judiciary on the benefits of these mechanisms, and by helping to raise awareness and understanding amongst the wider public of these alternatives to the formal court system (2014)
iii. Support development and implementation of a public awareness campaign on land-lord and tenants rights, with a particularly focus on the most vulnerable groups. (2014)