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A CRY FOR INVESTMENT IN LEGAL AID SERVICES AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE

 A MEMORANDUM TO STATE AGENCIES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

ON THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL KENYA

12 OCTOBER 2022

Nairobi County – On the tenth anniversary of Amnesty International Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya and the Paralegal Society of Kenya and Amnesty International Kenya organised eight legal empowerment and freedom clinics across eight counties on Utamaduni day, 10 October 2022. Fifty volunteer paralegals, pro-bono lawyers and human rights defenders directly engaged 443 Kenyans in Bungoma (65), Kilifi (67), Kisumu (105), Mombasa (60), Nakuru (42), Eldoret (28), Garissa (56) and Siaya (20).

Access to justice is central to achieving fundamental rights and freedoms. 88 per cent of those that attended the legal empowerment and freedom clinics this week had an average monthly income of Kshs 15,000. 33 per cent had interacted with the court system, mostly in the resolution of civil matters. 36 per cent have been unable to access legal counsel due to cost. For those that have, filing cases has cost them between Kshs 1,000–20,000. While there are high levels of awareness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, only 10 per cent of the clients have heard of the National Legal Aid Services and Fund. A staggering 66 per cent still feel uncomfortable appearing before the court system. 90 per cent of clients with courts cases indicate that they have had matters in court for more than 5 years.

Over the last three years, at least 50 public interest activists have been arrested yearly for exercising their lawful right to protest. Excessive bail and bond amounts and burdensome processes currently discourage public interest defenders from exercising their freedom of association, assembly, and expression. Different orders have negatively impacted families affected by forced evictions in various courts. Survivors of gender-based violence remain unprotected by our forensic capacities and the state’s reluctance to operationalise the National Coroners Service Act.

We consequently call for the following.

  1. The Interior Ministry and Finance Ministry to increase funding for legal literacy and assistance, decongest police stations, courts, and prisons, and promote early case resolution and alternative dispute resolution methods.
  2. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Judiciary to work together to expedite cases on police killings and enforced disappearances in court and ensure resolution within 36 months.
  3. Operationalise the National Coroners Service Act to enhance police accountability in cases of extra-judicial executions and use of excessive force.
  4. Ensure that contempt of court proceedings is not used to intimidate and criminalise journalists, whistle-blowers and public interest defenders. The criminal justice system should be preserved for the worst forms of speech that threaten peace and security and civil defamation and other complaints proceedings preferred instead for misreporting and defamation.

Much has changed since Amnesty International Kenya was registered in 2012. However, with 1 in 2 Kenyans still believing there is no equality under the law, access to justice for all will require deeper state and non-state partnerships. Let us press for legal empowerment and freedom of all before the nation marks the 50th anniversary of legal aid next year.

Thank you on behalf of our clients and in the public interest

     
Paralegal Society of Kenya Law Society of Kenya Amnesty International Kenya

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