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American Bar Association

ABA-Africa PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

ABA-Africa plans to develop a culture of human rights through the establishment of a Legal Aid Clinic and a Victim Service Center in Liberia. Below is the information about the pro bono commitment. Further information may be obtained through Obiageli Nnabuihe from ABA-Africa at nnabuiho@staff.abanet.org .

Legal Aid Clinic for the Accused

A Legal Aid Clinic will be placed in the Arthur Crimes Law School to provide legal aid services for the accused. While providing services to the indigent, the student run Legal Aid Clinic will also provide important training for law students committed to serving as public defenders once they have successfully completed their legal training.

The Legal Aid Clinic will be staffed by a Senior Attorney with expertise in criminal defense, and training and resource development. The Senior Attorney will be supported by a National attorney as well as two pro bono Law Professors, and an Office Manager.

Two pro bono Law Professors will spend six months each in Liberia to support mediation training and the development of the student Legal Aid Clinic. One law professor will have legal aid supervisory experience. The other law professor will have significant community based mediation experience. Both Professors will assist in establishing the appropriate frameworks for program implementation, and will develop training and resource materials.

As part of the pro bono commitment, the Law Professors will engage in outreach to their respective student bodies and colleagues to solicit book, resource materials as well as equipment to be donated to the Arthur Grimes Law School. The Professors will not only contribute to the implementation of the programming, but the connection with their law schools will serve to sustain the program beyond the grant period.

The Development of A Cadre of Public Defenders

Currently, the entire nation is being served by three public defenders. No matter how committed, three people cannot effectively provide adequate national representation for the accused. The judiciary has been under funded by the State and the rights of the accused have understandable been neglected. In order to ensure an effective rule of law, however, and to avoid State excesses, the right of the accused must be addressed.

Through a competitive process, final year law students will be selected to participate in a supervised legal aid clinic and provide free services to criminal defendants.

In addition to training, the pro bono Law Professor, and the supervising attorney will work to identify and develop resource materials to be used in and out of the court room including quick reference materials and checklists when and where appropriate. The pro bono Law Professor, in collaboration with the Supervising Attorney, will take the lead in developing these materials. The pro bono Law Professor will also assist in developing effective means of administrative oversight of students, case assignments and the most effective means of quality assurance in the services provided by the students.

Mediation

Community based mediation has been effectively used in African communities for generations. Limited access to the formal judiciary, a non-functioning judiciary, case overloads and backlogs, lack of confidence in the judiciary, as well as tradition have all made mediation an attractive community based means of dispute resolution. While the long-term goal is to rebuild the judiciary and ensure confidence in the effectiveness and utility of the judiciary, in the medium-term, mediation can serve to prevent and stem disputes that could lead to renewed violence. Mediation, if used appropriately, can build on traditional dispute resolution and provide effective dispute resolution to those typically marginalized—specifically women and children.

ABA-Africa has effectively supported the training of 18,500 mediators in Rwanda. ABA-Africa would leverage the best practices from Rwanda to implement this program. Initially, a pro bono law Professor would work with Liberia NGOs, such as AFFEL, and others that have already engaged in mediation training to build on the pre-existing mediation framework to identify crucial guidelines, including:

  • The criteria used to determine eligibility— those who have a reputation for fairness and are not known criminals etc;
  • The Development of a Code of Ethics; and
  • Guidelines to limit the type of cases subject to dispute resolution—mediation is not to include, for example, cases of domestic violence or sexual violence.
Once those guidelines are established, the pro bono Law Professor, building on pre-existing training manuals, would develop a specific training manual for Liberia and support trainings for citizens committed to acting as pro bono mediators. The training manuals would guide mediators in:

  • Understanding and adopting a code of ethics;
  • Ensuring equity of treatment of those participating in the mediation process;
  • Effective means of initiating a mediation session;
  • Training on mediation techniques;
  • Guidelines for decision making—such as basic legal standards; and
  • Guidelines for when mediation is not appropriate and where to refer such cases.
Once the mediation guidelines are developed, the pro bono Law Professor vet the manual with NGO partners, and those partners would deliver a series of trainings. At the end of the training those participants that have successfully completed the training process would receive a certificate and thereby establish themselves as community based mediators. As part of the certification process, mediators would agree to subject themselves and their mediation techniques to monitoring and to engage in future training as a process of continuing education. The monitoring and continuing education programs would be administered by NGO partners.

The mediation trainings would also be extended to traditional leaders to augment their role in dispute resolution. NGOs that have already developed a trust relationship with traditional leaders would take the lead in providing mediation training to traditional leaders.

Victim Support Center

ABA-Africa proposes the development of a Victim Support Center, in the court house of Monrovia, to further the development human rights culture by providing victims: an NGO referral service; free legal advice, medical exams, and victim/witness support specialist and access to the police. The Center would provide human rights and legal education to community, traditional and religious leaders, as well as out reach to governmental actors. The Center would support the police in more effective interaction with victim/witnesses—especially women and children.

The Victim Support Center would be staffed by an Attorney, NGO coordinator, two liaison Police Officers, two licensed nurses and a victim/witness support specialist.

Updated: 12/13/2006

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