The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), during its 57th Ordinary Session held from 4-18 November, 2015, in Banjul, The Gambia, considered and granted Observer Status to The West African Institute for Legal Aid (WAILA) in accordance with the Resolution on the criteria for granting Observer Status to NGOs working in the area of human rights. The Board and the entire staff of (WAILA), express sincere appreciation and profound gratitude to the Commissioners and the entire staff of the Secretariat of (the Commission) for having granted Observer Status to (WAILA).
WAILA aligns itself with the four hundred and ninety-three (493) NGOs, the Commission has gran ted observer status. We are committed to being a capable Institution, characterized by the rule of law that supports and protects all West African citizens without discrimination and to the protection of human rights in particular as one of the key prerequisites for good governance.
WAILA acknowledgesthat development is impossible in the absence of true democracy, respect for human rights, peace and good governance. WAILA plays a significant role in keeping democratic processes alive and reinforce good governance especially by its involvement in issues such as legal aid and human rights advocacy.
Across Africa, vibrant CSOs have continued to emerge, a signal that a wind of change is blowing from state-centric big government to people-centered governance.Different African countries have reacted with different strategies to the growing number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Some have acknowledged their roles and granted them a wide autonomy to pursue their objectives within the confines of national laws while others adopted stringent laws aimed at impeding their functions.
CSOs are a vital part of the overall human rights regime. They contribute significantly to standard setting as well as to the promotion, implementation and enforcement of human right norms. They alert duty bearers to live up to agreed standards and empower right holders to demand the same. CSOs all over the world have achieved a lot in their endeavor to promote and protect human right norms and values.
As we near the end of 2015, we at (WAILA)are extremely grateful for the contributions, expertise and dedication of our allies around the globe, as we work to fulfill our mission to promote the well-being of humanity throughout West Africa.
Thomas Fuad Touray
Executive Director: The West African Institute for Legal Aid (WAILA)
This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is aimed at establishing a framework for cooperation and collaboration between the parties in the provision of free legal services to indigent persons in both civil and criminal matters. Thescope of collaboration includes regulation and evaluation of the work of WAILA by NALA in accordance with the legal aid act of 2008.
2. OVERVIEW OF THE MANDATE OF THE NATIONAL AGENCY FOR LEGAL AID (NALA)
The National Agency for Legal Aid was established pursuant to the Legal Aid Act 2008, (herein referred to as LAA) in September 2010. Under the said Act, the agency has the primary mandate to administer the provision of legal aid services to all indigent persons who need it. The LAA also mandates NALA as the frontline institution for regulating the provision of free legal services by other stakeholding institutions.
3. OVERVIEW OF THE WEST AFRICAN INSTITUTE FOR LEGAL AID
The West African Institute for Legal Aid (WAILA) is a non-governmental, non-profit, impartial, and non-partisan. The main objectives of the Institute is to provide free Legalservices to eligible individuals or groups, in both criminal and civil cases, mainly poor
and vulnerable people in West African States.
The Institute also has a long term objective of providing free legal representation to eligible individuals or groups before regional and international judicial institutions.
4. AREAS OF COOPERATION
The mutual cooperation between the parties shall focus on;
a) Streamlining legal aid service delivery to indigents in the country
b) Defining clear referral pathways
c) Improving accurate data collection
d) Sharing of annual reports
e) Promote public awareness about the mandates of both institutions, subject to the availability of funds.
5. INDEPENDENCE OF OPERATIONS
Subject to the recognition that NALA is primarily responsible for administering and regulating legal aid services in the Gambia, each party to this MOU shalla) Operate independently and maintain its own identity.
b) be responsible for establishing and implementing its own policies on legal aid services.
c) independently finance its activities
d) comply with the provisions of the Legal aid Act and related laws, in execution of their mandate.
6. SCOPE OF PARTNERSHIP
1. NALA and WAILA shall partner to guarantee access to justice through free legal representation and advice to indigent persons who need it.
2. Pursuant to paragraph (1) the following roles and responsibilities are agreed uponPolicy Guidelines
a) The parties agree to implement the provisions of the LAA which constitutes the basis for providing legal aid services.
b) The parties shall share annuals reports of their respective work and activities where appropiate
c) The parties particularly recognize the provisions of the Children’s Act, 2005 in respect of free legal representation to children in conflict with the law in all cases
d) WAILA shall provide assistance to NALA in areas of legal research when needed
e) Subject to the availability of funds,WAILA may participate in mobile legal aid initiatives by NALA
f) Subject to the availability of funds, NALA may provide capacity building for WAILA staff.
g) NALA shall supervise the administration of legal aid services by WAILA as envisaged by the LAA Referral mechanism.
To further enhance the effective and timely delivery of legal aid avoidance of duplication in the provision of legal aid services, the parties undertake to do the following:
a) Where appropriate, WAILA may refer cases to NALA (e.g. where WAILA lacks the capacity to deal with a matter).NALA may also refer cases to WAILA where appropriate.
b) Where WAILA receives an individual charged with capital offence and needs legal aid, the same shall be referred to NALA and NALA shall take the necessary steps in ensuring that such individual gains access to justice.
c) A standard referral form developed and agreed upon by the parties shall be used when referring cases. The referral shall include information on the particulars of the person seeking legal aid, the means and merits test undertaken if any, reference
number of case(if in court), and a brief description of the legal issues in the case.
d) A referral shall not be rejected except where:-
1) The person seeking legal aid is not an indigent person,
2) The case is outside the jurisdiction of the Gambia
3) The best interests of the client would not be served Communication between parties.
a) The parties shall maintain open communication lines through a designated representative from each party
b) Each party shall share current data regarding delivery of legal aid services (except to client information which may be confidential or privileged, unless disclosure has been expressly authorized by the client), operational reports, changes in policy or personnel relating to this MOU.
7. PERIODIC REVIEW, ANALYSIS AND AMENDMENTS
1. WAILA shall report quarterly to NALA on progress in providing legal aid services.
2. The report shall include the followinga. Nature of cases handled.
b. Cases resolved
c. Cases pending
d. Other related information
3. NALA and WAILA shall jointly evaluate their progress in implementing this MOU every two year and develop new plans and goals as appropriate.
4. The MOU may be amended only as agreed to in writing by an authorized representative of each party.
8. DURATION AND RENEWAL
This MOU is effective from the date of execution and shall cease to have effect four year after its execution unless the parties decide otherwise.
1) WAILA and NALA legal representatives will have access to their respective premises to provide legal aid services, when necessary and convenient to the parties.
2) NALA and WAILA may use or display the name, emblem, or trademarks on this MOU and on meeting notes and implementation plans relating to this MOU.
3) In the case of defined projects such as developing preparedness material, brochures, or training material, NALA and WAILA will use or display the name, emblem or trademarks of the organization only with the prior, express written consent of the other party.