New leadership for AdvocAid

Following the celebration of our 10 year anniversary last year and winning the Clifford Chance Access to Justice Award, which includes 500 hours of pro bono support from legal and organisational experts, AdvocAid would like to share news of developments for the organisation in 2017.   WELCOME TO TWO NEW BOARD MEMBERS AdvocAid is pleased to welcome two new board members, Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus and Camilla McArthur, to the organisation. Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus is Policy Manager at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). She is responsible for leading the organisation’s work on public policy issues impacting immigrants and refugees. Lisa has worked in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and Ghana previously, and she brings a strong background in advocacy and research to AdvocAid. Camilla McArthur has over 10 years of experience in supporting civil society organisations develop their organisational and project management capacity, expertise she will contribute to AdvocAid’s development. Camilla has worked with organisations with global reach and NGOs based in Tanzania, Senegal, Morocco, and Southeast Asia. “We are delighted to have Lisa and Camilla joining AdvocAid. They bring new skills, experience and passion for women’s rights, which will strengthen the governance and strategic vision of the organisation,” said Board Chair and co-founder, Sabrina Mahtani. THE SEARCH FOR A NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR In June, our Executive Director, Ms. Simitie Lavaly Zorokong, will be stepping down from her role after more than six years working with the organisation. While Simitie is leaving the organisation to further develop her career, she will continue to support AdvocAid in a voluntary capacity. Simitie has worked for AdvocAid since 2009, starting as a paralegal...

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...

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...

AdvocAid Urges the President to Sign the Safe Abortion Act

12 February 2016: AdvocAid have today released a briefing paper urging the President of Sierra Leone to sign the Safe Abortion Act 2015 and thereby enhance the human rights of women and prevent needless deaths. The paper comes just one week after they released an open letter to President Ernest Bai Koroma – alongside Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and four other local NGOs – to sign into law the Safe Abortion Act 2015. The Act was passed by Parliament in December 2015, but is yet to be signed into law by the President, due to concerns raised by Sierra Leone’s religious leaders. Currently, it is a criminal offence for a woman in Sierra Leone to have an abortion, or for someone to provide her with such a service, unless the mother’s life is at risk. Such restrictions contravene numerous international and regional commitments the country has made, on the Rights of Women in Africa. In the decade in which they have operated in Sierra Leone, AdvocAid have represented a number of women that have been arrested due to illegal abortions, including the case of Joan (name changed to protect her identity), a nurse convicted in July 2009 of the manslaughter of a young schoolgirl, who allegedly came to her for abortion services, but later died. Joan was sentenced to 6-years imprisonment. She denies the allegation and the autopsy report was inconclusive to show that Joan’s actions led to the death of the schoolgirl. AdvocAid attempted to lodge an appeal for Joan, but her High Court file was missing, and by the time the matter was ready for hearing, she...

AdvocAid Featured on CCTV News

AdvocAid’s Ebola Prevention Programme for Prisons and Police Stations was featured on CCTV News. You can watch a clip below: You can support our Ebola Prevention and Access to Justice programme via GlobalGiving. We are grateful for all of your...

Announcing our New Executive Director

Message from Sabrina Mahtani, Outgoing Executive Director I’m pleased to announce that in June 2014, Simitie Lavaly took over as Executive Director of AdvocAid. I have continued to work with Simitie and our Senior Management over these past few months to support this transition and complete some projects I have been leading, such as the launch of our “Bail Is Free” Legal Education campaign. I am not leaving AdvocAid but just taking on a new role, and I’m excited to eventually be part of the Board of Directors and to continue to support AdvocAid’s strategic vision. It is a happy and proud moment for me to see AdvocAid continue to grow and there is no one I would trust more to continue our work than Simitie. Simitie started working with us in 2009 as a law student and her dedication and ability soon saw her rise to Legal Officer and then Deputy Director. Simitie is not just capable but fiercely passionate about the rights of girls and women in conflict with the law, who are often overlooked and neglected. She has defended many women on death row and through her hard work and commitment seen over 4 women on death row released. She has high standing in the women’s movement and in 2012 was appointed as President of L.A.W.Y.E.R.S (the female lawyers association). Under her leadership, L.A.W.Y.E.R.S expanded its impact and services to women who have experienced gender based violence. I am confident that Simitie will continue and develop AdvocAid’s vision as well as our role within the wider women’s movement in Sierra Leone and internationally. Photo: Simitie &...