Access to Justice in Context
Access to justice has been guaranteed as a basic human right under International law. Yet, for groups or individuals like Julia, the reality is very different. The Government of Solomon Islands, identifies access to justice services as a key priority area in its Justice Sector Strategic Framework (2014-2020).
In the Framework, the Solomon Islands Government is tasked with ensuring access to justice services for the wider Solomon Islands communities, including the rural population. UNDP with support from the Australian Government is capitalizing on this initiative through its Access to Justice Project implemented through a two-tiered paralegal initiative, namely Provincial Paralegals and the Community Legal Advocates (CLAs).
Working with the Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO), as the mandated position and head of the core client-facing access to justice institution for the Ministry of Justice and Legal Services, CLAs close the social justice gap through community awareness sessions and referrals to the PSO.
The PSO provides free legal assistance to financially disadvantaged persons in criminal, civil, family and land matters. Fortunately for Julia, all is not lost. Through attending one of the community awareness sessions facilitated by a Community Legal Advocate, she was referred to the PSO legal team who will now take up her case through the formal judicial system. In addition, she has gained an understanding of her rights and how to access the justice system.
Julia is one of 7,551 people (3,857 women and 3,694 men) that benefited from community awareness sessions about legal avenues available to communities delivered by CLAs in 2020.
Speaking in Pidgin, Julia lamented, “I just want my baby back and I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experience I did.”
“Through the community awareness sessions, I was able to differentiate what issues can be brought to the formal legal system and what issues can be settled through traditional means.” She added, “I feel more comfortable accessing the service provided by the PSO.”
Julia’s case is one of a myriad of challenges faced by people in remote areas with limited access to legal information. Through the CLAs, the knowledge and means to access justice is brought directly to the people in their comunties, enhancing confidence in the justice system for a more peaceful and responsive society.