NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – Legal lobby group Kituo Cha Sheria has urged the government to recommend the inclusion of “Access to Justice” as a target in the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Executive Director Gertrude Angote explained that the addition will ensure that the poor and marginalised globally can access legal services.
“The debate to have legal empowerment and access for justice for all is not a Kenyan debate, it should be a global debate. The need for legal empowerment should be recognised in the next phase of the MDGs and added as a matter of global urgency,” added Angote.
She encouraged the National Assembly to commence the step by approving the Legal Aid Bill.
“As an immediate measure and a sign of commitment, Parliament needs to enact the Bill as it will allow the marginalised to access legal counsel at minimal or no fee at all.”
“This breaks the spell that only those with money get justice within our courts,” she argued.
Vice Chairperson of the Justice and Legal Affairs committee in the National Assembly Priscilla Nyokabi – who once headed Kituo Cha Sheria – advised the organisation to petition Parliament for support.
“I encourage that Kituo Cha Sheria start a petition, get as many people to sign it and lobby the National Assembly members to support the inclusion of the additional goal.
“As the vice chairperson of the committee that is charged to handle Bills pertaining to justice I promise to push for the tabling of the Legal Aid Bill as soon as Parliament resumes next month,” said Nyokabi.
While referring to the recent incidents of the alleged harassment of women by Governors, the legislator observed that the proposed Bill would be a key to fighting impunity.
“The reason that Governors can get away with harassing and disempowering women in Parliament is because the society does not require them to be answerable.”
“In many other countries if a Governor was to do something like that he would be forced to resign from office.”
“The moment that this Bill is in place then the justice system will penalize persons found guilty of this misdemeanour,” Nyokabi explained.
Also present at the forum was newly appointed Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi who vowed to hasten the judicial reforms processes.
Amadi said that the Judiciary is in the process of establishing more courts to deal with the stockpile of cases.
“We will soon constitute a small claims court that will deal with petty offenders leaving the bigger courts to deal with the other tougher cases.”
“This will fast-track case hearings and deal with the backlog ensuring that justice is served in a timely manner,” Amadi added.
The Registrar also revealed that they would entrench a sentencing policy that would guide judges in their sentencing so that criminals get a sentence that is equal to the crimes committed.