Break down barriers and make legal access easy - HRC

2015-06-12 16:43
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Bloemfontein - The South African Human Rights Commission intends to assist poor communities to have access to the legal system.

To achieve this goal, the commission held a colloquium at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein on Wednesday to launch its national Access to Justice Campaign.

“We are one of the most unequal communities in the world. It is impossible for the poor to access justice because of the prohibitive cost and language barriers,” the acting Free State HRC manager, Buang Jones, told News24.

During the colloquium, speakers lamented the fact that people find the court environment unfriendly. It is also the belief in legal circles that court interpreters are not trained properly.

One of the solutions is to work closely with paralegal associations, which do not have access to the funds needed for this kind of community work. This is one of the areas where the commission intends providing support, Jones said.

“We need to give vulnerable people knowledge of the basics of the law and how to exercise their rights. We have noted a series of protest actions against matters such as a lack of basic services.

“People resort to violent action because they don’t know how to access the correct channels for their grievances.”

Justice accessible to all

Jones applauded the good work done by government to fund Legal Aid.

“Legal Aid is an important role player to make the justice system accessible to all. Last year alone Legal Aid assisted in half-a-million cases, the bulk of them criminal cases, but also a fair share of civil matters.”

The colloquium was attended by academics from universities across SA.

A related project will be rolled out to schools to make the Constitution and the Bill of Rights more understandable to young people. This project will include a pocket guide to all children when they start their academic learning.

Jones said the commission supports the shift towards drafting legal documents in understandable English.

“This will help normal people to understand legal documents and the legal process better,” he told News24.

“We have a highly acclaimed Constitution, yet we have a majority, particularly in rural areas, without access to legal services. We have to remove these barriers.”

Read more on:    sahrc  |  judiciary

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