Lawyer I.P. Mammie:“If you want a foothold in criminal practice, AdvocAid is a great place to learn”

For this month’s anniversary blog, Lawyer Ishmael P Mammie has sat down with Saskia B Binet, AdvocAid’s Development Intern, to tell her about what it’s like to represent AdvocAid clients and how representing women with sometimes very serious charges has affected his career. Since early 2013, Mammie has been working closely with AdvocAid as one of their Duty Counsel Lawyers in Freetown, representing clients in some of the organisation’s most critical and notorious cases. Trained at Fourah Bay College and recommended by a former AdvocAid Duty Counsel on the basis of his successes in court, Lawyer Mammie emphasises the duty of both fighting injustices in the system and defending challenging cases. Since he has started working with AdvocAid, he has represented 359 women and girls including 38 juvenile cases.   When asked about a particular highlight whilst working for AdvocAid, Lawyer Mammie finds it hard to pinpoint a time. “So far, everything I have done for AdvocAid has been interesting, and there have been several striking moments which continue to occur, for the very reason that AdvocAid cases are extremely challenging. As well as representing clear injustices, we also deal with people who can have multiple charges against them, murder being one of them.”   Often Lawyer Mammie’s cases can attract a lot of media attention, and he discusses one of the cases that garnered the most attention and affected him personally. In discussing a particular murder case, in which a woman had killed her boyfriend, Mammie states that ‘from day one there was not a moment that the issue was not reported in the newspapers and the radio. And in fact it...

Inside a remand home for juveniles in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone’s justice system, children and youth are rarely treated any differently than adults. They often spend excessive time behind bars without charge – considered guilty until proved innocent. To raise awareness about conditions in detention facilities for juveniles, journalist Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (alias De Monk) has written an excellent article about his recent visit to the remand home for juveniles in Kingtom, Freetown. One of the things he noted was the severe impact of funding constraints on the rehabilitation of detainees. The government-funded remand home is supposed to be a reformation centre for juveniles, who come in contact with the law, but there’s not much, if any, reform activity going on there at the moment. There is no formal education program in place and this means these school age children, after spending long periods on remand, go back to their communities worse off than they were. In the article, De Monk also tells the story of Mohamed Sesay*, who has spent three years at the remand home without trial. No indictment papers (the documents required for an accused person to stand trial in the High Court) have been filed, and the complainant has never appeared to pursue the case against the boy. Read the full story: SIERRA LEONE – Juvenile detention centres lack means to reform inmates. *Names of inmates in the article are fictional to protect their identities. Sierra Leones has two remand homes for juvenile suspects and one detention facility for convicted juveniles. All are massively under-funded, and lack of resources for detention facilities have grave consequences for the children waiting for their sentences. De Monk approached AdvocAid after the Day of the African...

Paralegal Nenny: How I was convinced that perpetrators’ rights matter

Nenny Kargbo, paralegal in Makeni, has been a huge asset to AdvocAid since she started working for us in 2014. In this months’ contribution to our 10 year anniversary blog series, Nenny admits that it took her a while before she fully agreed that female perpetrators deserve our support. Today, she is committed to protecting the rights of all women and girls, and she is passionate about helping released clients become role models instead of victims. Ever since I was a child, I have been passionate about human rights. Growing up during our 11-year long civil conflict, I have suffered from violence and injustice myself, and it made me long to be a defender of women’s and girls’ rights.   In 2012, I came across AdvocAid when a colleague of mine was arrested and detained in police cell for allegedly wounding her boyfriend with a blade. After three days, she was granted court bail with no payment and she was represented in court until her case was discharged. When I asked her what happened, the first thing she told me was: “I thank AdvocAid. Oh, my sister, if not for them I would have been sent to jail.”   Even though I have worked for a human rights-based organisations in the past, it was never enough. I became interested in working for AdvocAid, because here I could help defending the rights of women and girls in conflict of the law.   My dream came true in 2014, when I got a job as paralegal for AdvocAid. Yet on my first day at work, I found myself in a different world, and in the beginning I didn’t fully understand the concept...

Inspiring the next generation of Human Rights Lawyers

Alimamy Koroma used to be one of AdvocAid’s star legal interns. Passing his Bar exams in April, he is now a fully fledged lawyer and we are lucky that he is still representing AdvocAid clients. This month, as part of our 10-year anniversary celebrations, Alimamy has written a blog about his passion for human rights and his professional development since he joined AdvocAid in 2012.   How AdvocAid continues to inspire me Legal education in Sierra Leone is fraught with many challenges. There is a severe lack of good textbooks, and teaching methods favour theory over practice. When I gained admission to study law in 2011, I was therefore concerned about this situation and yearned for the opportunity to gain practical legal experience. The main reason why I had been attracted to study law in the first place was not because of the fancy Latin maxims. My passion was to learn how to use laws to transform lives and create positive changes in our society.   So when AdvocAid advertised a year-long internship in 2012, I was super excited. The recruitment process itself was intense and I was the only second year student to be shortlisted for interview. Only four vacancies existed but a large number of students had applied. Luckily, I managed to impress the interview panel and I got the role – despite being in competition with some of my senior colleagues.   During my internship, I monitored police stations and prisons, provided basic legal advice, did legal research and interviews with clients, and helped out with trainings. Although the work was demanding I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the police monitoring. I think it was...

Patrick’s proudest moment with AdvocAid

  Patrick Steven is our Freetown Office Assistant, and he’s our second staff member to write a blog as part of our 10-year anniversary celebrations. He has been part of the AdvocAid fambul (family) since 2010, and is one of our longest serving members of the team. We asked him to tell us his proudest moment working with AdvocAid, and what it’s like to be surrounded by so many women in the office!     My years of working with AdvocAid have greatly inspired me to be of assistance to people in my community. Even though I am not a paralegal, and have never undergone paralegal training, I have attended numerous staff workshops, trainings and our weekly team meetings. Through these, I have been able to pick up a lot of basic skills and knowledge in ensuring people in conflict with the law have access to justice through legal assistance and education.   One example is that of a gentleman in my congregation at church – Michael (name changed to protect his identity). Michael was arrested a few months ago for the alleged offence of wounding with intent. He was detained at a Police Post in Freetown. Some members of the congregation asked for my support. I visited the Police Post, navigated the authorities, and learnt that Michael had been asked to pay 300,000 Leones (c.$75) to secure bail.   AdvocAid has done a lot of work to educate people that they shouldn’t pay a bribe for bail, and that bail is free. I knew this to be the case, so put on my ‘Pay No Bribe for Bail’...

Imprisoned for Debt? AdvocAid Says it is Time to Reform the Larceny Act 1916

30 March 2016: AdvocAid are today calling for reform to Sierra Leone’s Larceny Act – an act that leads to many Sierra Leonean women being illegally imprisoned for debt. Women owing as little as Le 250,000 (around $60) have been imprisoned for up to three years. This call comes one week after AdvocAid and the British Council Sierra Leone held a policy debate on the topic, titled Decongesting Correctional Centres: lifting the criminalising of owing a debt under the Larceny Act 1916, as part of their co-delivered EU funded Justice Matters Programme. Over the two-year programme, it has become increasingly evident that women in Sierra Leone still suffer disproportionately from the lack of actions taken to decriminalise debt. AdvocAid – a Civil Society Organisation providing free legal aid to women in Sierra Leone – highlight that ‘fraudulent conversion’ is an offence contained in section 20(1)(iv)(b) of the Larceny Act 1916. It is, intended to criminalise the use of property for purposes other than that for which it was given and/or intended. It is AdvocAid’s experience that interpretations of fraudulent conversion in Sierra Leone have now evolved far beyond this original definition, distinctly disadvantaging women. Charges are increasingly applied to situations where a debtor is unable to repay a sum of money they had initially agreed to pay the complainant. It is not the first time that AdvocAid have raised this issue, releasing the ‘Women, Debt and Detention’ report in 2012. One of AdvocAid’s clients is Saptieu (28), a trader. She owed her supplier Le 2,400,000 ($600) for goods taken on credit. As she was unable to pay the full amount on...