FCA Launches New Legal Project for Pre-Trial Detainees

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Officials pose following the launch of the project in Monrovia

By C.Y. Kwanue

The Finn Church Aid (FCA)-Liberia on Tuesday launched a new two year project in Monrovia.

The European Union (EU) Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) project was officially launched on behalf of the Ministry of Justice by Hilary Siakor Sirleaf, Assistant Justice Minister for Rehabilitation.

The aim of the project is to assist pre-trial detainees seek justice and deal with other legal difficulties, mainly facing females and young people.

The EU-funded project was launched under the theme, “Providing Access to Justice and Gender Sensitive Legal Awareness at Grassroots Level,” will be implemented by FCA in partnership with the Rural Human Rights Activities Program (RHRAP) and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) respectively.

FCA-Liberia Country Director, Hoslo Jiwa, said the project was launched to also monitor Liberian prisons and give access to a telephone so prisoners can talk with their families and that those who are wrongfully imprisoned can have access to lawyers.

He said FCA-Liberia with its local partners will meanwhile train Liberian police, prison guards and governors of prisons on the international human rights of prisoners and establish a telephone system for three national prisons in the country.

“For 18 months prisoners will have access to phones and lawyers working on pro-bono system to review their cases of incarceration,” Mr. Jiwa said.

Alberto Menghini, head of the Cooperation Section-Resilience of the EU Delegation in Liberia, said, “The objective of the project is to contribute to enhancing the rule of law and the respect of the fundamental human rights and the most vulnerable prisoners in Liberia by promoting access to justice through enhancing local capacities to provide gender sensitive legal support and protection of prisoners’ rights in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties where the project is implemented.”

AFELL president Attorney Vivian D. Neal pledged to continuously work with FCA and the EU to ensure that the project is successful.

She said prolonged pre-trial detention is a problem in Liberia, making “our prison facilities overcrowded with its limited capacity and also denying some inmates due process of the law.”

RHRAP executive director Lorma Baysah said the entity is a human rights and peace organization that was established in December 1997 by a group of activists who believe that the message of human rights should be spread into the rural areas to educate rural inhabitants on issues of human rights, peace and social developments.

“For the past years of existence,” Mr. Baysah said, “RHRAP education and advocacy work focuses on promoting effective justice systems, accountability in the extractive sector, promoting women’s participation in governance, as well as peace-building and conflict transformation in rural communities, using various methods.”

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