An effective and fair criminal justice system is one that represents and serves all. Recognizing that access to justice is an important component of the criminal justice system, INL supports initiatives that strengthen the legal profession, offer legal aid, and educate foreign publics through legal rights awareness campaigns. Furthermore, INL works with host country counterparts to remove barriers that prevent persons, particularly those in vulnerable situations such as women, girls and minorities, from receiving redress from the justice system. Highlights of INL’s access to justice work include the following:
Strengthening the legal profession: A well-trained cadre of lawyers and legal educators is essential to promoting justice and ensuring representation within the system. In Afghanistan, INL assists in the development of faculty and courses at Afghan universities. Programs provide pedagogical development to law faculty members, including opportunities to earn advanced law degrees in the United States. Law students receive practical skills training so that they will be well-equipped to represent their clients upon graduation.
Offering legal aid to the indigent: In many countries, individuals are guaranteed the right to legal assistance but are unable to realize this right in practice. For example, INL supports access to justice through projects that operate legal aid clinics throughout a particular country, such as in South Sudan. An INL initiative in Tajikistan provides free legal consultations and representation to persons in vulnerable situations and underserved populations, such as children. In Iraq, INL supports UNICEF’s efforts to increase access to justice for juveniles in pre-trial detention through provision of legal aid.
Educating the public through legal rights awareness campaigns: Public education is key to informing citizens about the law and existing legal rights and services. The aforementioned legal aid projects in South Sudan and Tajikistan complement the legal aid work with outreach to citizens to inform them of their legal rights. In addition, in Morocco INL funds a project that – through partnerships with local civil society organizations – focuses on increasing citizen access to information about the criminal justice system.
Promoting civil society: As part of its holistic approach to access to justice, INL engages both state and non-state actors including civil society organizations that monitor compliance with laws and advocate on behalf of those whose rights have been violated. For example, INL supports a program in Montenegrothat works to increase civil society engagement in criminal justice reform efforts through watchdog and monitoring activities, advocacy and policy-making, research, and public education.
Focusing on persons in vulnerable situations: Our programs seek to ensure that persons in vulnerable situations are treated fairly and humanely by the criminal justice system. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, INL supports a project that seeks to ensure justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence by providing forensic training to police, attorneys, and health care workers.