June 6, 2014
In many ways, legal aid is a basic human right. The right to be heard before a judge and to be adequately defended before the law is essential to every person. What is justice if it is not accessible to all? Why have a legal system if everyone cannot use it—rich or poor.
In the United States, should a person unfortunately find themselves before a judge for a criminal matter, at some point, they will hear, “if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you” (or something along those lines). In Cote d’Ivoire, a similar law exists.
This week we hosted our very first seminar on legal aid in Abidjan. The purpose of the seminar is to discuss the law passed in 1972 which allows anyone, accused or accuser, to receive legal assistance free of charge if their resources are insufficient. The issue here is that most people do not know the law exists and if they do, they will rarely take the initiative to apply for it for fear that they will not receive it.
The seminar was interesting. Court Clerks, Assistant Prosecutors, ProJustice Court Coordinators etc. were all present. Instead of simply being informative, the seminars were a forum for exchange on ideas for developing the law, as well as current issues “in the field” so to speak. Next week, we take the seminars on the road!