General News of Tuesday, 27 November 2018
The Commissioner for the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal has called on Lawyers in the country to volunteer and offer pro bono services for the ordinary Ghanaian as part of their contributions to the administration of justice for the poor.
His call comes on the back of concerns raised about the disparities that exist in societies as regarding access to justice and application of the rule of law. Promoting human rights, access to justice and respect for rule of law has become challenging in most ECOWAS member states, making it cumbersome for the ordinary citizen to have justice. The ordinary person is rarely able to have his or her case heard in court due to the fact that they don’t have adequate resources to pay a lawyer to represent him in court.
The heartbreaking situation has necessitated intervention from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who have made it a point to help the less privileged and also grant them the needed assistance when they need access to justice.
‘We live in the sub-continent where accessing justice is not only expensive but it is not brought near the poor, that is formal justice. It is quite difficult for the ordinary person that is man, woman, child who has issues, a dispute with a neighbor or with any other person to be able to access our formal institutions of justice especially the court, and so for access to justice to actually mean what it is, a forum that presents an opportunity to air your views and to have your disputes heard and to have a remedy, there’s the need to begin rethinking our approach to providing access to justice to our people”, he said while delivering a goodwill address at the ECOWAS consultative meeting on access to justice and respect for the rule of law at the Mensvic Hotel in Accra.
‘’ I’m not saying you should do all your cases as pro bono, if you do hundred cases at least do 5% of those cases as free, that is your contribution to society, he added.
Mr. Whittal, in making his submission also made reference to the Justice for all programme which was established in 2007 and aims at decongesting the country’s prisons and promoting prisoners’ rights, especially those of remand prisoners. The programme actually involves the setting up of special courts at the prisons where cases of prisoners whose cases meet the criteria of the programme are reviewed.
The JFAP has been beneficial to the vulnerable and poor who find themselves in detention for one reason or another and are unable to afford the legal fees and so self-represent or remain unrepresented.
The CHRAJ Boss, Mr. Whittal was speaking on the first of a two-day event targeted at addressing issues regarding the administration of justice in West African countries.
The objective of the event is among other things to deliberate on the various measures adopted across the ECOWAS Member States to promote human rights, access to justice, respect for the rule of law, and provide insight into legal, institutional, policy environment and practical challenges faced in the promotion of human rights.
He also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to members of ECOWAS for making it to Ghana to discuss topical issues concerning the rule of law in Africa.