Finn Church Aid and the EU launch Project on Access to Justice in Liberia

Finn Church Aid (FCA) and the European Union in Liberia have launched a project to provide access to justice and gender sensitive legal awareness at grassroots level in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties in Liberia.

The two-year project seeks to contribute to enhancing the rule of law and the respect of the fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable prisoners in Liberia. It also aims at improving access to justice by strengthening local capacities to provide gender sensitive and legal support and protection of prisoners’ rights in the three counties.

Speaking at the project launch ceremony, the Head of Cooperation Section and Resilience at the European Union Delegation in Liberia, Alberto Menghini emphasized that the project will enhance knowledge of law reinforcement representatives. This includes police and correction officers, legal practitioners, as well as enlighten community leaders on the rule of law and international human rights standards.

Menghini added that the initiative will further increase legal provision of legal assistance for vulnerable detainees. This includes strengthening dialogue, cohesion building and information sharing between stakeholders and improving attitudes and practices through awareness raising and advocacy at national and international level on issues of vulnerable detainees’ rights.

“Poor prison conditions and excessive pre-trial detention are a consequence of wider problems in the judicial system and cannot be fully addressed in isolation. However, they are also human rights violations that cannot be left unattended until the bigger problems are fixed. That’s why EU’s Human Rights Strategy in Liberia includes supporting initiatives aiming at improving prison conditions and reduce pre-trial detention”, Menghini stressed.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) Country Director, Hoslo Jiwa, explained that “we have all heard it when the alleged perpetrator of a crime says ‘I want to make a phone call’. It seems the right thing to say when you have been accused of a crime and you need help from your parents, guardian or a lawyer. It is something we take for granted”.

Jiwa further noted that FCA and its local partners will monitor the prisons and train Liberian police, prison guards and governors of prisons on international human rights of prisoners and establish a telephone system for three national prisons in Liberia. During 18 months prisoners will have access to phones and lawyers working on pro bona system to review their cases of incarceration.

FCA will manage and coordinate the project, that is funded by the EU. Liberian civil society organisations Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP) and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) will implement it in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties collaborating with government ministries and agencies and traditional and religious leaders in addressing some of the challenges that the Liberian justice system faces.

The project was officially launched by the Ministry of Justice. Assistant minister Hilary Siakor-Sirleaf pledged the ministry’s support and full collaboration toward the successful implementation of the project.

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