Children and disadvantaged people whose rights are being abused and violated without legal representation to plead their cases will soon benefit from assistance to be provided by the Defense for Children International-Liberia (DCI-Liberia), executive director Foday M. Kawah disclosed on June 28.
Mr. Kawah, addressing journalists in the conference room of DCI’s office on 21st Street, Sinkor, said the capacity to work in Montserrado, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties came after they received a grant of US$69, 948 from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
DCI-Liberia has been involved with advocates for child rights and disadvantaged people. The project that is commencing now in the three counties seeks to provide free legal services for children and disadvantaged people, such as the disabled, the elderly and women in direct conflict with the law as well as victims of human rights abuses.
There are various forms of abuse of children in Liberia nowadays, including rape, denial of education, vulnerability and hard labor.
Worse in these situations is the lack of legal representation for the victims due to high legal fees and poverty. Consequently, children and disadvantaged groups are subjected to all forms of abuses.
According to Mr. Kawah, DCI intends to also work with the country’s justice system, to enhance child justice framework through training, empowerment on international human rights standards in dealing with child offenders at detention centers, judicial proceedings and victims of abuses.
The project, under the title, “Strengthening the Rule of Law in Liberia: Justice and Security for Children,” will go further in ensuring that the police, judicial personnel and local community-based structures respond to Juvenile Justice.
Liberia is a signatory to the African Child Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and many other human rights protocols. These protocols seek to protect the rights of children in regard to survival, protection, development and participation.
According to Mr. Kawah, a lot of people, some of them children, are languishing in prisons in deplorable conditions and without legal representation, while girls and young women victimized by sexual exploitation and violence are being imprisoned without receiving reparation.
In order to draw government’s attention to these situations for appropriate redress, Kawah said, “DCI-Liberia will carry out lobbying or advocacy actions aimed at holding the state party accountable for child rights violations that will reach out to the most vulnerable children, such as children in detention and those ones that are victims of violence, exploitation and abuse, and the undocumented children.”
He said their awareness and advocacy for juvenile justice is essential, because only through such actions would the most vulnerable be impacted. He emphasized that without such responses justice would be only for a few children and often among the most privileged, such as those who have access to the justice system and are not necessarily the most affected by abuses or violations of their rights.
In the UNDP-sponsored project to be implemented by DCI, three lawyers will be hired to provide free legal representation in the three counties, free legal education and information provided by the lawyers; four case workers will be hired to gather cases related to the objectives of the project, and three socio-legal defense centers will be established in the counties.
DCI-Liberia was established in 2009 with an objective to seek the welfare and vision of children and to ensure that the rights of every child are protected by law.