ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Seven of the world’s 20 countries with high pretrial detention rates are in Africa.
Pretrial detention is antithetical to the idea of fair trials and speedy dispensation of justice. More discomfiting is the almost age-long practice, which has metamorphosed into the trend of deliberately incarcerating suspects; for long periods in the hoax of pretrial detention.
Nigeria’s numbers have continued to increase despite spirited efforts to reduce pretrial detention and overcrowding. As of today, 70% of inmates in Nigeria are awaiting trial at a 136.7% occupancy rate.
Through our Access to Justice program we meet indigent persons in contact with the justice system at various detention or correctional center, and offer legal aid services to them.
Specifically, we represent Children in conflict with the law, women, wrongly accused persons, and individuals who are victims of human rights violations perpetrated by criminal justice actors.
Accelerating justice in Nigeria Project
Hope Behind Bars Africa (HBBA) and Legend Golden Care Foundation (LGCF) launched Accelerating Justice Reform in Nigeria (AJURN), a 3-year project aimed at reducing the number of pre-trial detainees in custodial centers in Nigeria by utilizing pro-bono lawyers while making a case for the implementation of the non-custodial system.
It was launched on the 19th of January 2023 with a visit to the Nigerian Correctional Facility, FCT Command with a donation of community service tools to the Non-Custodial Facility.
To promote awareness on the existence of the Non Custodial unit of the Nigerian Correctional Service, A Stakeholders’ Dialogue and Launch of Policy Brief for this cause was held on May 18, 2023.
Police Duty Solicitor Scheme
Hope Behind Bars Africa has commence plans to initiate the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS). The scheme will enable our organisation intervene by providing legal representation to suspects at the police immediately after arrest. The objective of the program is to protect indigent suspects against unnecessary and arbitrary use of arrest and pre-trial detention.
Our lawyers stationed at the police station will have the duty to ensure that investigating officers comply with the provision of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and other relevant laws on criminal justice administration.
In collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, this scheme holds the potency of ensuring that there is speedy investigation of cases, decongestion of detention facilities and the right of suspect will be adequately protected.
Capital Trial Project
The mandatory death penalty which is adverse to International Human Rights Law is still very prevalent in Nigeria’s statute books, a country which has a dearth of specialized capital defenders. In 2020, we took up 4 capital cases. We also leveraged on our relationship with Cornell University Centre on Death Penalty worldwide and organized an intensive introductory training for young lawyers and law students, so they will get a hang of the intricacies of the capital punishment and issues relating to persons charged with a capital offense.
For the mini trainings, we had 35 participants and for the in-person training, we had 20 participants. Eight (8) students of whom were University Undergraduates students and Twelve (12) were lawyers. We had facilitators from Nigeria, Cornell University Centre on Death Penalty worldwide and from other parts of the world.
The feedback we received shows that the training was beneficial and insightful to the attendees. For most of the students, it helped them to rethink their participation in extracurricular activities that bothers on issues relating to human rights. 80% of the lawyers present shared their excitement about the prospect of volunteering with HBBA.