Lawyers call for scaling up of free legal services

There’s need to create a pool of professional lawyers who offer free legal service to the poor so as to create a path toward a community of equitable justice.
Participants pose for a group photo after the two-day training on Tuesday in Kigali. Julius Bizimungu.
Participants pose for a group photo after the two-day training on Tuesday in Kigali. Julius Bizimungu.

There’s need to create a pool of professional lawyers who offer free legal service to the poor so as to create a path toward a community of equitable justice.

This was observed Tuesday at the closure of a two-day workshop, dubbed ‘Legal Training on Strengthening Access to Justice and Rule of Law’.

 

The training, in Kigali, was organised by the Rwanda Bridges to Justice (RBJ) in partnership with International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) and Rwanda Bar Association.

 

“For access to justice to be truly universal, everyone, especially the poorest of the poor, must have legal protection. Training sessions such as this that empowers the next generation of defence lawyers and bringing them together as a community, are crucial to making that happen,” said Karen Tse, CEO and Founder of International Bridges to Justice.

 

Karen noted that the aim is to continuously refine and strengthen the practical criminal defence skills of lawyers so they are better able to safeguard the rights of accused persons.

The workshop brought together about 50 Rwandan defence lawyers who underwent a rigorous training on essential skills like cross-examination, investigation and client interview, according to John-Bosco Bugingo, the programme director for RBJ.

“The whole idea is to help young lawyers, Rwanda Bar Association as well as the entire justice sector in Rwanda in enhancing the skills of the defendants, particularly criminal defendants which is largely a neglected area. You find lawyers engaged more in commercial matters because this is where there’s money. But what about the vulnerable women, children and men who can’t afford.

Small cases or pro-bono cases (generally free services that a professional provides to poverty-stricken clients, non-profit groups or charitable organisations) are normally taken up by young lawyers who don’t have access to big clients, and therefore there should be a way to support them to improve their skills, he said.

Bugingo said, this is why they are placing a particular focus on early access to justice, training and giving capacity to young lawyers through empowering them in terms of legal skills and strategies for them to provide to their communities the right legal counsel.

Joelle Kabagambe, one of the participants, said the training had facilitated them in understanding more the techniques of fighting for justice of the poor.

“We have learnt that a lawyer should fight for the right of every person regardless of their financial status. Some of the people in prisons are vulnerable, the training has equipped us with skills of how we can help such people get justice,” she said.

Rwanda Bridges to Justice says it wants to tap into technology to train more people.

“We want to use technology as a platform for capacity building and benefit more people. We are putting in place an e-learning system that allows all the lawyers to access different training materials,” Bugingo said.

In the same way the Government introduced the Integrated Electronic Case Management System, IBJ wants to establish a ‘Justice hub’ to complement lawyers to find everything in one place. This, Bugingo said, will help lawyers save money and time as many have been going abroad to acquire these skills.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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