EU Launches New Project on Access to Justice

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A cross-section of some of the partners at the occasion.

The European Union (EU) has launched a new project in Margibi, Nimba and Bong counties under the title, “Strengthening the Human Rights of Prisoners within Correctional Facilities and at Grassroots Level,” a release has said.

Funded by the EU and implemented by the Serving Humanity for Empowerment and Development (SHED), and Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP) in partnership with FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) in FINLAND, the two-year project seeks to promote respect for the rule of law, human rights and adherence to national and international standards for prisoners, and the strengthening of the capacities of justice actors in the three counties.

It also aims at improving access to justice by enhancing local capacities, awareness and resources to provide protection of prisoners’ rights, according to international human rights instruments.

Dr. Hans Lambrecht, Head of the Cooperation Section for Governance and Education at the Delegation of the EU to Liberia, said that the project will enhance the knowledge of law enforcement representatives, including police, and correction officers, legal practitioners as well as enlightens community leaders to the rule of law and international human rights standards.

Lambrecht spoke recently at a ceremony marking the launch of project in Kakata Prison Facility, Margibi County.

He added that the initiative will further increase legal assistance for vulnerable detainees; strengthen dialogue, cohesion building and information sharing between stakeholders and improve attitude and practices through awareness raising and advocacy at national and international level on issues of vulnerable detainees’ rights.

“The project is funded by the EU Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) in continuation of sustaining the gains made from the just ended EIDHR project in January, 2019, and now being extended to provide continued support to the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation in all four counties.

The intention, according to Dr. Lambrecht, is to address the prisoners’ human rights concerns.”

Similarly, Sweden Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist, lauded the EU and implementing partners’ efforts, but called on officers assigned with the Bureau of Correction to make maximum use of the partners’ support.

Both representatives from the EU Delegation in Liberia and the Swedish Embassy, then toured the prison facilities, including the newly established library for prisoners, and the refurbished and equipped record room the partners had put into place.

In separate remarks, SHED Project Manager, Godo E. Kolubah and Lorma Baysah of Rural Human Rights Activist Program, said the project has been designed to address some of the many challenges still faced by the country’s justice system, according to the data acquired during the implementation of the current EIDHR and its successes and achievement in the past two years.

It addresses several knowledge gaps faced by target groups involved in the administration of justice, such as correctional officers, lawyers, magistrates as well as detainees, religious representatives and community leaders. The aim is to protect detainees whose rights are being at risk of violation through illegal arrests, prolonged detention, inhuman detention practices, SGBV, and no access to legal counseling and representation.

The project target some specific gaps that emerged through the current project implementation, such as the necessity to set up semi digitalized filing procedures, according to national and international standards, setting-up prison library, equipping and improving prison record systems that has to do with the setting up and supporting fast track systems to speed up hearings for pre-trial detainees in the project counties.

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