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International Access to Justice: Legal Aid for the Accused and Redress for Victims of Violence

Dr Julinda Beqiraj , Dr Lawrence McNamara

The International Bar Association (IBA) provides assistance to the global legal community with the aim of influencing the development of law reform and promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law throughout the world. 

As part of that mission, the IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee, formed in 2013, has undertaken and commissioned research into issues it sees as being of prime contemporary importance. This study, the Committee's second project, focuses on legal aid in criminal cases and redress for victims of violence. These issues are of global importance now as the United Nations agrees on a set of Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030, which will include access to justice and the Rule of Law. The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law conducted the research and wrote this report with contributions and comments from the Committee.

This report uses a comprehensive concept of access to justice that covers different stages of the process of obtaining a solution to civil or criminal justice problems, including: the existence of rights enshrined in laws and awareness thereof; access to both formal and informal dispute resolution mechanisms; the availability of, and access to, counsel and representation; and the ability of such mechanisms to provide fair, impartial and enforceable solutions.

The report consists of six chapters. The introduction (Chapter 1) explains the aims and structure, Chapter 2 outlines the methodology, before the three core chapters of the report (Chapters 3 - 5) address groups of obstacles to achieving access to legal aid for the accused and redress for victims violence, and related examples of projects and best practice adopted to surmount them. In order, these examine:

  • Access to legal aid for the accused in a criminal case, including: access to legal information; access to free legal advice, assistance and representation; due process, fair procedures and an efficient judiciary.
  • Redress for victims of violence, including: access to legal information; access to legal aid; access to a fair dispute resolution mechanism and participation in the process; enforcement of decisions and types of redress.
  • Dualities, referring to a situation where the paths to justice intersect when an accused also becomes a victim, or a victim also becomes an accused. Barriers to achieving access to justice operate in complex ways for a person with this dual status.
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