AdvocAid Celebrates Independence and 10 Years of Access to Justice

26 April 2016: AdvocAid is celebrating Sierra Leone’s 55th Independence Day with girls, women and staff in the country’s Correctional Centres and Remand Homes, highlighting the continued need since Independence to improve detention conditions for women and girls. AdvocAid staff, alongside representatives from human rights organisations and government institutions, will be visiting Correctional Centres and Remand Homes in Freetown, Makeni, Kono, Kenema, Bo and Port Loko. AdvocAid provides legal aid, legal rights awareness and welfare support to women and girls in conflict with the law in all six towns. The visits will involve the distribution of Ebola prevention materials, celebratory food and recreational games; additionally, at Bo Correctional Centre, AdvocAid will be supporting the rehabilitation of a water well, due to a critical lack of access to water. Although Sierra Leone received the all clear from Ebola on 17 March, there continue to be cases in neighbouring countries, and the Correctional Service must continue to safeguard its inmates and staff from an outbreak. The Ebola prevention materials have been generously funded by a grant from GlobalGiving. As well as celebrating 55 years of independence, these events will commence AdvocAid’s 10 Year Anniversary celebrations. AdvocAid’s Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, comments: AdvocAid started working with women in prison 10 years ago, so we see today as a day for joint celebration in Sierra Leone – 55 years of Independence, and a decade of working with the Correctional Service to support women and girls in conflict with the law. We are delighted to be sharing this day with the women and girls that we support, as well as our colleagues across the Correctional...

Launch of New Kono Office

AdvocAid Launches New Kono Office To Reach More Women in Need of Free Legal Aid Friday 19 June: Today, AdvocAid held the official opening for their new regional Kono Office from which they’ll provide targeted legal support to girls and women in conflict with the law. This is the second regional office they have opened since May 2015, thanks to the generous support of donors recognising a need to increase visibility and stability of free legal aid for women in Sierra Leone. The Kono office is being funded by the International Women’s Programme of the Open Society Initiative (OSI) whilst the European Union and British Council under the Justice Matters: Strengthening the Rights of Women and Girls project are co-funding by supporting personnel running costs. AdvocAid, founded in 2006, are a legal aid organisation providing free legal assistance, representation and education to girls and women in Sierra Leone. They have had an informal presence in Kono since 2012 through the retained services of Lawyer Festus B. Conteh of Lacawi and more recently in 2014 through the services of their Paralegal Sidi Sowa and Duty Counsel Lawyer A B Samura. The opening of the official office will greatly strengthen AdvocAid’s outreach and Legal Aid programme along with prioritising and building vital visibility for women in conflict with the law in the region. AdvocAid Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, said at the official launch: “We are delighted to be able to officially launch our Kono office and have a firm presence here in the East of the country. The women of Kono have been crying out that they need more legal services to...

Launch of New Regional Office, Kenema

AdvocAid Launches Kenema Office as Part of Justice Matters Programme in Sierra Leone Friday 29 May: Today, AdvocAid held the official opening for their new regional Kenema Office from which they’ll provide targeted legal support to girls and women in conflict with the law. The opening of this new office has been made possible thanks to a partnership with the British Council in Sierra Leone, to deliver the EU funded programme: Justice Matters: Strengthening the Rights of Women and Girls. AdvocAid, founded in 2006, are a legal aid organisation providing free legal assistance, representation and education to girls and women in Sierra Leone. Whilst they have had a presence in Kenema since 2010, they have done so via partnerships with local organisations, to share resources, such as renting office space at Timap for Justice, one of our strong partnership organisations. With the support of the Justice Matters grant, the Kenema Office will become an up-country regional hub for AdvocAid from which to strengthen their programmes, build visibility and prioritise support for women in conflict with the law in the region. The office will be run by Ms Jalahan Jakema Amara, Kenema Programme Officer. At the opening, she stated: “It is a pleasure and privilege to lead AdvocAid’s expansion within the East of Sierra Leone. With this vital investment, we will have far more visibility within the region, ensuring more girls and women know about our free legal support, and will have greater access to our educational campaigns and outreach work.” The opening was attended by AdvocAid staff and former detainees, civil society partners, government representatives, members of the legal community and...

10 Reasons Sierra Leone Should End the Death Penalty

10 October 2012 marks World Day Against the Death Penalty The TRC recommended that Sierra Leone abolish the death penalty. “Respect for human dignity and human rights must begin with respect for human life. Everyone has the right to life. A society that accords the highest respect for human life is unlikely to turn on itself.” The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which considered cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, did not have the power to impose the death penalty. The death penalty should be abolished as otherwise ordinary citizens are treated more harshly than convicted war criminals. Many countries across the world have abolished the death penalty: 141 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. Countries with similar histories of civil conflict, such as Liberia, Rwanda and Burundi, have abolished the death penalty. The death penalty is a violation of various international human rights standards. The deterrent effect of the death penalty has never been conclusively proven. A 2009 survey of US criminologists revealed that over 88% believed the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder. The death penalty is irrevocable. No justice system is perfect. Innocent people could, therefore, be sentenced to death. For example, AdvocAid has conducted successful appeals for two women on death row whose convictions were overturned. But limited legal aid services mean that many more innocent people could be sentenced to death. The death penalty is unfair. It is often used disproportionally against the poor, mentally ill and those who are unaware of their legal rights. Constitutional Courts in Uganda and Kenya have held that the mandatory death sentence for...

AdvocAid presents at the International Human Rights Funders Group Conference

AdvocAid was part of a panel at the International Human Rights Funders Group Conference this week in San Francisco. The panel was entitled “Flourish or Wilt? Taking Stock of Women’s Human Rights in an Era of Revolutionary Political Change” and we presented alongside courageous women activists from Egypt, Tunisia and Kazakhstan. We are very grateful to Mama Cash for this...

Monitoring Trip to Makeni

AdvocAid’s Executive Director and Legal Officer paid a visit to Makeni to monitor and support the work of our Makeni paralegal, Victoria Koroma, who is based with Access to Justice Makeni. We paid visits to the Courts and met with police, State Counsel and the newly transferred High Court Judge. We also visited Makeni Prison, Female Section and distributed welfare items, took detailed statements from the inmates and conducted general prison monitoring. We were able to put up posters concerning the Bangkok Rules, UN Standards for the Treatment of Female Detainees. Simitie Lavaly, Legal Officer, performed a bail application for a young female detainee (a former street girl) which was unfortunately refused due to her lack of family ties and fixed abode. We were very pleased with Victoria’s work and her impact in Makeni. Thanks to Open Society Foundations for their support of our work and GIZ who supported creation of the posters. Posters designed by Steph...