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Sierra Leone

Expanding community-based justice services (SL0022)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Sierra Leone Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Attorney General and Ministry of Justice

Support Institution(s): Legal Aid Board (LAB); Judiciary; Local Councils; Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (Office of the President); Ministry of Lands (community justice fund); Ministry of Finance; Human Rights Commission; Office of the Ombudsperson, Namati; National Coalition for Community Legal Empowerment (NaCCLE); Advocaid; Open Society Initiative for West Africa; Open Data Council

Policy Areas

Justice, Marginalized Communities, Public Participation, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: Pending IRM Review

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Pending IRM Review

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact: Pending IRM Review

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
According to the Government of Sierra Leone’s situation
analysis of the justice sector, it has been ‘marred by poor
service delivery, limited access to justice, limited
allocation of resources, shortage of staffing and limited
capacity’. As of early 2018, there were only 21 judges and
20 magistrates covering the entire country, with only few
based out of Freetown. Limited judicial staff, backlog of
cases, delays in the dispensation of justice, and corruption
within the judiciary has all contributed to the erosion of
public confidence in the judiciary and formal justice
system as a whole.
Community-based and informal justice service delivery
has been shown to be used more frequently throughout
the country than the formal justice system and result in a
higher rate of resolution of legal problems. A 2018 survey
conducted by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa
(OSIWA) of 52 chiefdoms across Sierra Leone revealed
that in only 8% of cases did respondents initiate a formal
court process and in only 10% of cases did they seek the
assistance of lawyers to address one or more legal
problems they have faced in the last two years. Instead,
13% sought the assistance of an informal community
leader or organization for mediation or arbitration and 14%
used dialogue or reconciliation processes. Of the formal
court processes initiated, only 4% of respondents were
actually involved in a court hearing and only 18% of the
cases initiated in court were completely resolved. In
contrast, where engagement occurred through an informal
mechanism or mediation, about 54% of cases were
completely resolved.

What is the commitment?
Ensure access to justice for all by expanding communitybased justice services and increasing transparency in local level structures

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem?
This commitment seeks to increase access to justice for
all by expanding legal services to marginalised,
vulnerable, poor, and/or rural populations provided by
legal aid boards, community-based justice service
providers (paralegals), NGOs, and CSO non-lawyers. It
also seeks to increase local provision of justice services
through grievance redress mechanisms within local
councils and existing community governance structures.
The commitment’s emphasis on supporting non-lawyer
interventions and the non-formal justice sector are meant
to increase citizen participation in justice delivery, while
promoting transparency and accountability in the local
justice delivery structures that communities are most
likely to engage.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
This commitment is a natural extension of the second
prong of Commitment 9 on Access to Justice under the
NAP II, which focused on increasing transparency in
case management and establishing structures at the
local level to improve access to justice.
The commitment’s emphasis on supporting non-lawyer
interventions and the non-formal justice sector are meant
to increase citizen participation in justice delivery (a
public service), while promoting transparency and
accountability in the local justice delivery structures that
communities are most likely to engage. Increasing justice
interventions at the local and community levels ensures
rule of law and helps to increase public safety in
communities.
Furthermore, access to Justice is complementary to
transparency and access to information. Implementation
of the Right to Access Information Act is key to access to
justice because the public and paralegals need
information from the judiciary and police and sectorspecific data on health, education, and more to be able
to know their rights and hold public officials accountable.

Additional Information:
Ensuring access to justice by expanding communitybased justice services features explicitly in the
government’s New Direction agenda under ‘Advancing
Rule of Law, Promoting Justice and Human Rights’
under Pillar IV on ‘Improving Governance’. Among the
challenges the government itself has identified in justice
sector is ‘the growing erosion of public confidence’ in the
judiciary. As part of its plan to ‘overhaul the judiciary and
justice delivery system in the country with a view to
restoring public confidence in its independence and
impartiality and make justice accessible and available for
all’, the government has committed to ‘train a cadre of
'paralegals' to support the sector in the country's extreme
rural communities where the services of trained legal
practitioner's currently pose a huge challenge’. While the
government’s New Direction agenda also includes
strengthening the country’s Legal Aid programme to
continue to provide legal aid services to indigent and
vulnerable citizens, expanding community-based justice
services goes beyond those provided by LAB paralegals
and includes community justice services provided by civil
society. The President has reiterated this commitment on
several occasions, including the State Opening of
Parliament and during the UN General Assembly in
2018.
During the 2018 UNGA, President Bio gave additional
details on the government’s plan for the justice sector.
Prominently featured were plans to train more paralegals
to support the justice sector in remote rural communities
that cannot access formal courts and establish local
administrative justice and other grievance redress
mechanisms in order to free up the Magistrate and High
Courts (i.e. the formal justice system) to deal with more
complex cases. Local councils are already subject to a
number of transparency provisions in the Local
Government Act 2004, such as publishing an annual
development plan and budget. If local grievance redress
mechanisms are established through the Local Councils.
This commitment also consolidates government’s
commitment to achieving SDG 16 and the open
government agenda, which are inextricably linked.
Promoting access to justice through community-based
paralegals and structures is also part of the
government’s commitment to achieving SDG 16.3, which
encourages acceleration in the provision of justice to
people and communities outside the protection of the
law. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice,
representing Sierra Leone as a co-chair of the global
Task Force on Justice, has announced plans to use data
to better understand why people ‘want to resolve their
problems and disputes informally or through customary
justice systems.’ At the 2019 UNGA, she announced the
government’s plans to open a Justice Innovation Centre
(JIC) to further access to justice data collection and
aggregation. As mentioned above, some data already
exists. However, this is just a small sampling and the
OGP’s emphasis on open data would be vital to building
the evidentiary base necessary for developing the
relevant community-based paralegal and justice
structures and that the government provides adequate
financing to address the actual needs and patterns
associated with community-based justice delivery in the
country.
The commitments on Access to Justice and Access to
Information are complementary. Implementation of the
Right to Access Information Act is key to access to
justice because the public and paralegals need
information from the judiciary and justice sector and
sector-specific data to be able to assert their rights or
address the problems they are facing in their
communities.


Commitments

  1. Expanding community-based justice services

    SL0022, 2019, Justice

  2. Improving access to secondary school

    SL0023, 2019, Education

  3. Tax system transparency

    SL0024, 2019, Fiscal Transparency

  4. Beneficial ownership registry

    SL0025, 2019, Beneficial Ownership

  5. Improve implementation of right to access to information

    SL0026, 2019, E-Government

  6. Advancing gender equality

    SL0027, 2019, Gender

  7. Open parliament

    SL0028, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Records and Archives Management

    SL0029, 2019, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Gender

    SL0012, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Foriegn Aid Transparency

    SL0013, 2016, Aid

  11. Waste Management

    SL0014, 2016, Capacity Building

  12. Fiscal Transparency and Open Budget

    SL0015, 2016, E-Government

  13. Audit Report

    SL0016, 2016, Audits and Controls

  14. Climate Change

    SL0017, 2016, Capacity Building

  15. Elections

    SL0018, 2016, E-Government

  16. Record Archive Management

    SL0019, 2016, E-Government

  17. Access to Justice

    SL0020, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Open Public Procurement Contracting

    SL0021, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  19. Publish and Revise 70% of Mining and Agricultural Lease Agreements and Contracts

    SL0009, 2014, E-Government

  20. Starred commitment Right to Access Information Law

    SL0010, 2014, Capacity Building

  21. Open Data Portal for Transparency in Fiscal and Extractive Transactions

    SL0011, 2014, E-Government

  22. Public Integrity Pact with 5 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

    SL0001, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  23. Archives and Records Management Act

    SL0002, 2014, E-Government

  24. Scale up Performance Management and Service Delivery Directorate

    SL0003, 2014, Public Participation

  25. Compliance with Audit Measures

    SL0004, 2014, Audits and Controls

  26. Starred commitment Single Treasure Account

    SL0005, 2014, Extractive Industries

  27. Extractive Industry Revenue Act

    SL0006, 2014, Extractive Industries

  28. Scaling up Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives

    SL0007, 2014, Extractive Industries

  29. Local Content Policy (LCP) Linkages with MDAs

    SL0008, 2014, Capacity Building