As part of its efforts to make access to justice a reality, the Gambia Bar Association (GBA) on Thursday held a mobile legal aid clinic. The much-awaited event which took place at the Youth Monument, Westfield, was mainly meant for women and children.
“The primary objective of this program is to bring access to justice to the doorstep of communities,” GBA President Salieu Taal told reporters during a news conference held on the sidelines of the mobile legal aid clinic.
The initiative, supported by United Nations Development Program (UNDP), comes at a time when the West African nation is experiencing major institutional and constitutional reforms.
Lawyer Taal said the mobile legal aid clinic consists of lawyers who are ready to offer pro-bono services to those who cannot afford them. He added that some people also find it difficult to open up to a lawyer who can guide them.
High legal fees have always been a major hurdle for many people who live from paycheck to paycheck or are severely hit by unemployment.
For her part, UNDP’s Shella Ngum-Ngoa, who also spoke to the media, disclosed that the project will cover eight areas, including four rural localities.
“It is an initiative that comes under the project called “Rule of Law,” she said, expressing hope that the mobile legal aid clinic will bring people closer to justice.
“Our aim is to ensure that citizens have access to justice, and to be able to know their rights. We hope it will allow them to report cases without fear,” Ngum-Ngoa said.
The Registrar of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat (ADRS), Bakary Camara, who said the agency operates under the Ministry of Justice, told journalists that the ADRS plays a crucial role in resolving disputes through arbitration and conciliation.
Despite operating under the legal framework the agency’s functions does does not include negotiation in their procedures, although it is part of the means they routinely use to resolve disputes.
“We realise that courts are being congested, and we provide alternative ways to resolving disputes outside the courtroom,” he said.
Renowned Police prosecutor Momodou D. Mballow took part in the event. As a representative of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), he lauded the initiative saying it will allow suspects under Police custody and those undergoing to have access to justice.
“We believe the right to legal representation starts from the point of arrest,” he said.