monday, 3 june of 2013

UN rights expert urges governments to develop effective legal aid systems

Legal aid systems

UN rights expert urges governments to develop effective legal aid systems

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul urged world governments Thursday to guarantee the right to legal aid at the highest level possible and to consider enacting specific legislation to establish a comprehensive legal aid system that is accessible, effective, sustainable and credible. Knaul discussed these recommendations in a presentation of her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council. In her report, Knaul concluded:

Legal aid is an essential element of a fair, human and efficient system of administration of justice that is based on the rule of law. It is a foundation for the enjoyment of other rights, including the right to a fair trial and the right to an effective remedy, a precondition to exercising such rights and an important safeguard that ensures fundamental fairness and public trust in the administration of justice.

Knaul also observed that as the purpose of legal aid is to contribute to the elimination of obstacles that restrict access to justice by providing assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal counsel, beneficiaries of legal aid should include any person who comes in contact with the law and does not have the means to pay for counsel, not only those facing criminal proceedings.

The right to counsel has been the subject of numerous court cases worldwide in recent years. In August the Supreme Court of India ruled that persons accused of crimes are entitled to free legal representation in all courts, not just at the trial level. In February 2011 the Supreme Court of India ruled that courts could not decide a criminal case without a lawyer present for the defendant, and should appoint counsel where the defendant cannot obtain a lawyer. In October 2010 the UK Supreme Court ruled that Scottish police could no longer question a suspect in custody without the presence of a lawyer. A week earlier the French Court of Cassation ruled that all persons in custody of French law enforcement, including terrorism suspects, are entitled to consult with lawyers from the outset of criminal proceedings. Also that month the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadians do not have the right to have counsel present during custodial interrogations under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

(Published by Jurist – May 31, 2013)

latest top stories

subscribe |  contact us |  sponsors |  migalhas in portuguese |  migalhas latinoamérica