Director wants Legal Aid Scheme to be well resourced

Mr Al-Hassan Yahaya Seiny, Director of the Legal Aid Scheme, on Wednesday stressed the need for the scheme to be adequately resourced to enable it deliver its mandate to the vulnerable in society.

He said the Legal Aid Scheme’s physical presence in the communities was vital but it would be more beneficial if they were adequately empowered and capacitated to assist the poor, especially in the rural communities of the country.

Mr Seiny speaking a day’s stakeholders’ meeting on waiving of legal fees for indigents who seek justice before, during and after the 2012 elections, said presently they had limited presence in the regions due to lack of resources and infrastructural facilities.

The meeting was organized by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), a human rights non-governmental organization with support from STAR-Ghana to seek ways to reduce financial barriers to access to justice with regards to election conflicts.

The year-long project with funding from DFID, USAID, DANIDA and European Union aimed at strengthening the Judiciary to deal with human rights abuses during the 2012 elections.

Mr Seiny said according to the 2011 National Population Census report about 40 per cent of Ghanaians who were considered economically active were unemployed.

“If you have such large a number of your population being unemployed what that means is that they are equally poor… Yet these vulnerable or poor or indigents are expected to participate in the Justice system… this is where it becomes necessary to adequately and regularly resource the Legal Aid Scheme to enable it take up the costs of such vulnerable in society,” he said.

He said the 1992 Constitution had stated that everybody was entitled to a lawyer of his or her choice and justice was available to all irrespective of one’s status.

“Everybody is entitled to formal and informal justice through the courts but the indigents have problem with accessing that type of justice because of the form of court procedures. Court recordings are done in English language and that eliminate majority of our people who cannot read and write,” he said.

The Director also mentioned the form and the language of presentation of court cases as other barriers that discriminate against the indigents because accessing justice through the courts required more than literacy.

The Legal Aid Scheme was established to assist indigents – those who earn government minimum wage or less to access justice through the law courts through provision of Lawyers, pursuing the case to the end and taken up all costs relating to the case.

The later was subjected to Legal Aid Board approval.

Mrs Ameley Agyeman, the Project Coordinator, said the project had been necessitated by the absence of specialized courts dedicated to the resolution of conflicts arising as a result of elections.

She said the absence of specialized courts delayed the peaceful resolution of conflicts that fester as a result of protracted adjudication.

Some political parties, civil society organizations, human rights activists, judicial service and the media represented at the meeting called for an awareness creation on the responsibilities of the Legal Aid Scheme to enable the Scheme to source public funding for its activities.

Source: GNA

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