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Ombudsman schemes and effective access to justice: A study of international practices and trends 

(October 2018)

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This report examines the broad range of ombudsman models used worldwide to bridge the gaps created by formal, expensive and lengthy dispute resolution processes.

It explores how ombudsman services have become a significant feature of legal systems across many jurisdictions, developing from a constitutional accountability tool to an independent complaints mechanism widely used in the private sector.

Focusing on ombudsman offices whose mandate has a strong link with economic and social rights, the report includes analysis of good practice; the role of ombudsman bodies in dealing with corruption; schemes in the financial services, consumer and telecom sectors; the funding and legal restrictions faced by these services; and issues relating to digitalisation.

The report was written for the IBA by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.

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Access to justice for persons with disabilities: From international principles to practice

(October 2017)

This report pursues three complementary aims: to identify barriers to access to justice for persons with disabilities; to gather examples of solutions used to overcome those barriers; and to provide insight into how examples of good practice may be transferable internationally to inform access to justice practices.

Written by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the report explores how a rights-based approach grounded in effective access to justice could help ensure that justice policy, planning and implementation takes appropriate account of the input and needs of persons with disabilities.

It aims to contribute to this by analysing the main legal issues and practices that operate as barriers to access to justice for persons with disabilities, and highlighting possible solutions in various jurisdictions around the world.

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The report was featured at the UN-linked Zero Project conference in February 2019.

Children and Access to Justice: National Practices, International Challenges

(October 2016)

This report by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law examines barriers and challenges to access to justice for children and the ways those are overcome in different jurisdictions. Authored by Julinda Beqiraj and Lawrence McNamara, the report draws together strategies and solutions, and provides insights into how examples of good practice may be transferable internationally. The analysis includes previously unpublished data from a Council of Europe survey covering 48 European states and entities.

Building on the framework set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and taking into account the UN's Sustainability Development Agenda, the report features an extensive desk-based review and an analysis of the systemic barriers and solutions within the operation of criminal, civil and administrative justice systems.

It concludes that the rights of children to be actively engaged in decisions affecting them still poses a challenge. The report also suggests the important role played by independent redress mechanisms and notes recent progress towards recognition of the special needs of children when they encounter the justice system.

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Children and Access to Justice in the Agenda for Sustainable Development

(May 2016)

This briefing paper by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law examines how the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda can help tackle child poverty by improving access to justice and the economic and social wellbeing of children.

Child poverty is a universal challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 247 million children are deprived of their basic rights, while poverty also affects one in four children in the world’s richest countries. Child poverty is not just about lack of economic resources; it also involves, for example, access to food, health services, clean water, education and protection.

Access to justice is at the core of guaranteeing children’s rights, but legal systems often make it difficult or impossible for children to obtain redress for rights violations. The UN Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 16 – have the potential to make an important contribution to eradicating child poverty and ensuring children are better assisted and protected by justice systems and the rule of law.

This paper illustrates how lawyers involved in advocacy, law reform, drafting of new legislation, legal education and providing legal assistance and representation have a huge opportunity to support and contribute to the empowerment of children out of poverty cycles.

A survey is also being undertaken which will form the basis of a report to be published later in 2016 (see below for more information).

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Legal Aid in Criminal Cases and Redress for Victims of Violence

(October 2015)

The IBA’s Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee is pleased to publish its 2015 project:

'International Access to Justice:  Legal Aid in Criminal Cases and Redress for Victims of Violence'

Working once again with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the study builds on the Committee’s ‘International Access to Justice: Barriers and Solutions’ report which was launched at the IBA’s 2014 Tokyo Conference. (see below)

The 2015 project aims to gain an understanding of the availability and effectiveness across jurisdictions of legal aid for those charged with violent crimes and of redress mechanisms for victims of violence.

The project is funded by a grant from the IBA’s PPID committee. The project has also engaged other parts of the PPID (in particular the BIC, HRI, and the LPD Criminal Law Committee). 

International Access to Justice: Barriers and Solutions

(October 2014)

In 2014 the IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee commissioned its first research project. 

The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law conducted the research and wrote the report with contributions and comments from the Committee.  The report, International Access to Justice: Barriers and Solutions, was launched at   the 2014 IBA Conference in Tokyo. The report explores obstacles to access to justice across jurisdictions and practices which have sought to overcome these barriers. 

The research team and the Committee conducted an international survey through IBA networks to examine the extent to which individuals and groups in different countries are able to use formal and informal justice systems, legal services and dispute resolution mechanisms to solve their justice problems and explore how different barriers affect different groups of the population and whether they are more relevant in certain sectors of justice systems.

The project’s ultimate objective was to provide evidence that can inform the design of reforms and programs that address key problems and complement existing efforts to overcome barriers to access to justice.

The mutually supportive link between access to justice issues, on the one hand, and economic and social development, on the other, makes this study of great interest to countries that have undertaken or are in the process of undertaking justice sector reforms.

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Click on headings below to read case studies related to this project

Bringing the law to the people in the slums

Country:            Argentina

Keywords:        Legal aid, Mediation, Legal awareness raising

The problem: Access to legal aid and assistance

The concrete possibility of obtaining legal aid and/or legal assistance is at the core of achieving access to justice. Physical accessibility is closely related to the enjoyment of such services, but the problem remains in both rural and urban areas. In Argentina, the 2001 financial and economic crisis exacerbated the phenomenon of the so-called villa miseria or shantytowns. These ‘urban islands’ are mainly inhabited by immigrant populations; their separation from the city by physical architecture and infrastructure echoes the social, cultural and economic diversity that characterises them. Crime rates are very high in the villas. While residents are locked in an endless cycle of poverty the Argentinian government has embarked in the difficult task of addressing these access to justice issues.

The strategy: Facilitating physical access to legal aid services and raising awareness about rights

In the past few years, the government has opened a number of legal aid centres in slum neighbourhoods, which provide services to assist immigrants and address the problem of unreported legal action by the police in cases of domestic violence. Five pilot centres were opened in Buenos Aires in 2008. Their activities shed light on the need to offer a wider range of services. Thirty-three more centres were eventually opened, several of them in the provinces. In addition to providing legal assistance, the centres act as mediators. They also raise awareness about new laws that expand rights in areas such as immigration, mental health and domestic violence.

The centres work with ministries, public offices, universities and foreign consulates, and in some cases, these institutions supply their own staff. Moreover, young people coming under the Labour Ministry’s ‘More and Better Jobs’ programme work as administrative employees at some of the centres.

According to a study conducted by the National Office for the Promotion and Strengthening of Access to Justice, these centres have provided assistance in more than 152,000 cases since their creation. Nine mobile units were added in 2012 due to the overwhelming number of people seeking help.

Further information and resources

In context - country data


  • Population: Approx. 42 million                                                         
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system based on West European legal systems
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Upper-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 106/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014:
    RoL Global Ranking - 58/99
    Civil Justice - 40/99
    Criminal Justice - 70/99

Updated October 2014

Using mobile phones to speed up land boundary negotiation and enforcement processes

Country:            Bolivia

Keywords:        Radio, media, accountability, impunity.


The problem: Land ownership rights and government inefficiency

In many parts of Latin America, rural communities have long been disenfranchised and cut out of the official land titling/registering process. This phenomenon creates and sustains inequalities. In Bolivia, in particular, indigenous communities struggle to establish their rights to land and many lack formal titles to own property. Bolivia has the highest population of indigenous people in Latin America (65 per cent) and an enormous portion of its rural population lives below the poverty line (83 per cent). The wealthy elite own 60–70 per cent of arable land, trapping Bolivian farmers in a poverty cycle.

In 1996, the Bolivian government passed the Law of Agrarian Reform in an attempt to correct such inequalities and previous policy failures, but title regulation failed to be fully taken up. Most farmers still do not have formal titles to the land on which they live and work. One of the main contributors to the Bolivian landlessness problem is inefficiency on both the government and community sides of the process. Communities are legally required to come together and define boundaries by consensus before formalising it with the government, but long distances make this procedure time-consuming and costly.


The strategy: Use of technology to bridge the gap

Since 2003, Mercy Corps has been seeking to simplify and speed up the process of issuing land titles to rural people. In 2009, they partnered with Fundación Tierra, a non-profit making organisation working on land rights in Bolivia, to bring basic mobile phones to seven target communities. SMS technology allows communities to send GPS points to map land boundaries, stay informed about the status of land agreements, and produce the reports required by the government’s titling agency. Once GPS mapping information has been recorded, community members can gather to view the map on a large screen and discuss the boundaries. Their goal is to reduce the time of conducting the land titling process by 40 per cent (or just over 200 days) and reduce the cost of the process by 39 per cent (£14,006) per community. Mercy Corps has been successful so far, but challenges arise due to differing levels of computer literacy and irregular mobile phone reception. Additionally, the language of the indigenous people is often only spoken, not written, making SMS text messages a one-sided. To combat this difficulty, Mercy Corps established a user-friendly and fee-free support line.

As the programme continues to expand and improve, it hopes to provide a workable model for other regions. As of June 2014, similar programmes have been implemented in Guatemala, Colombia, Kenya, Uganda, and Indonesia.


Further information / resources




  • Population: Approx. 11 million
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system with influences from Roman, Spanish, canon (religious), French, and indigenous law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking - 106/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014:
    RoL Global Ranking - 94/99
    Civil Justice - 96/99

Updated October 2014

Trials Monitoring Project

Country:            Cambodia

Keywords:         Fair trial standards, oversight and monitoring mechanisms; transparency; judicial reform


The problem: Lack of confidence in the judiciary and poor implementation of fair trial standards

In Cambodia, democracy and the rule of law are in a delicate state. Constraints on government powers and regulatory enforcement are poor and the justice system is ineffective. The independence of the judiciary is compromised and corruption remains a significant problem. As a result the legal system is used as a tool to protect the political elite and punish those who speak out against the existing political order. Accordingly, public confidence in the judiciary is low. Past efforts to instigate judicial reform have been obstructed by a lack of valuable substantive evidence on the practical institutional shortcomings.

The strategy: A monitoring programme for promoting transparency and accessibility

In July 2009, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) sought to address the problem by piloting a trial monitoring programme. The overall goal of the Project is to improve the procedures and practices of courts in Cambodia in order to encourage full adherence to fair trial standards in criminal trials. The programme operated initially in first instance criminal trials, but the reach of the programme extended in March 2013 to include monitoring in the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal.

Monitors attend trials on a daily basis to assess the quality of the trial by reference to a checklist. The checklist is designed to produce qualitative and quantitative data that highlight adherence to fair trial standards. The checklist varies in accordance with the court that is being monitored. In the First Instance Court, the checklist questions are based on the Cambodian Procedure Code of 2007 and international law. Conversely, the checklist questions for the Court of Appeal are more probing and focus on both the procedural and substantive elements of the hearing.

The information gathered is used to produce documents for public dissemination such as annual reports, press releases and factsheets. The project has produced two key handbooks: the Handbook on Fair Trial Rights and Trial Monitoring in Cambodia (March 2012) and the Handbook on Pre-trial and Trial Procedures in the Cambodian Criminal Courts (August 2013).

In September 2013, a Trial Monitoring Database was launched to increase transparency and promote accessibility to the project findings by the Cambodian judicial system and the general public, including legal professionals and civil society.

These materials are used in a manner that stimulates debate on the issues of legal and judicial reform. The programme engages in dialogue with judicial stakeholders, the monitored courts and the Ministry of Justice so as to establish a working relationship and to facilitate reform. Further awareness raising techniques include the provision of capacity building workshops for civil society groups, university students and judicial stakeholders.

Further information / resources


In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 16 million
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system (influenced by the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia) customary law, Communist legal theory, and common law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Low-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking - 160/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014:
    RoL Global Ranking - 91/99
    Criminal Justice - 95/99
    Corruption - 86/99

Updated October 2014 

Country:            Colombia

Keywords:        Lawyers’ collectives, accountability, impunity, human rights abuses


The problem: A feeling of impunity and lack of knowledge about the justice system

Despite some recent progress in resolving its longstanding civil conflict, Colombia still faces serious challenges as regards levels of crime, which are partly attributable to the presence of powerful criminal organisations. The judicial system is afflicted by delays and lack of effectiveness in the investigation and prosecution of crimes and this has triggered a widespread feeling of impunity. Moreover, there is a general lack of awareness of both domestic rights and international human rights. Organisations of lawyers –known as lawyers’ collectives – are attacking these access to justice barriers by defending and promoting human rights both within the Colombian justice system itself and before the Inter-American System of Human Rights.


The strategy: Lawyer’s collectives and NGOs raising awareness on human rights and legal entitlements

Corporación Colectivo de Abogados Luís Carlos Pérez(CCALCP)is an organisation that teaches Colombians about their legal rights in relation to communal land and nature reserves in order to conserve lands from mining or palm oil production companies. In the northern region of Norte de Santander they accompany victims of forced displacement, such as the Motilón Barí indigenous people and traditional farming communities from the municipality of Toledo. In the eastern region of the Magdalena Medio, they focus on legal aid and political advocacy, working with the Peasant Farmers’ Association of the Cimitarra River and the Association of Victims of State Crimes.

Members of CCALCP are not protected by the government or international bodies. Peace Brigades International provides some protection, but nevertheless the organisation and its individual members have received threats.


Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo(CCAJAR)is a non-governmental human rights organisation recognised around the world for representing symbolic cases of human rights abuses in Colombia. For instance, until 2011, the Department of Administrative Security had spied on and illegally recorded communications between members of the political opposition, magistrates, journalists etc. The Collective represents more than 20 of the victims of this illegal wire-tapping and surveillance.

CCAJAR has been successful in its objectives to overcome strategies and mechanisms of impunity that have predominated in cases of grave violations of human rights and crimes against humanity and establish the truth about crimes against humanity perpetrated in Colombia. However, it has itself been victim to threats and surveillance. The CCAJAR has been granted protection measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.


Further information / resources




In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 50 million                                                      
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system influenced by the Spanish and French civil codes
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Upper-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 94/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 61/99

Criminal Justice - 79/99

Order and Security - 89/99

Updated October 2014

Empowering ‘Poverty Prisoners

Country:           Egypt

Keywords:       Imprisonment for debt, women’s rights, pro bono lawyers, legal reform advocacy


The problem: Detrimental effects of imprisonment for debts on women and their children

Many Egyptian women are imprisoned for having small debts due to their failure to pay premiums on electrical appliances bought by themselves or other family members. Most of these women live in extreme poverty and cannot therefore afford to make the repayments or understand the implications of the failure to maintain repayments. The bureaucracy surrounding Egyptian prisons means that these women represent an invisible population that is stained by the stigma of imprisonment.  Often they are abandoned by their families as a result.

Some women are imprisoned with young children up to the age of four or are pregnant while in detention. The harsh conditions of incarceration – and the subsequent discrimination faced by the women on release – has a damaging effect on their lives and the lives of their children.


The strategy: Legal and economic empowerment of women prisoners

Since 1990, the Children of Female Prisoners Association (CFPA) has sought to empower women as a means of guaranteeing the long-term development of their children and preventing the development of an underclass of children condemned to a life of poverty. The organisation focuses on providing women with both legal assistance and practical tools to overcome the social and economic injustice arising from their imprisonment.

The association assists female prisoners in many ways including by: repaying debts, providing vocational training, encouraging entrepreneurship, organising media sources to sensitise people to the condition of women prisoners and supporting the reintegration of prisoners back into society. Furthermore, the organisation has opened access to prisons by encouraging the authorities to allow health care professionals and pro bono lawyers to get in contact with female prisoners.

The association has successfully contributed in releasing some prisoners in extreme poverty following reconciliation with creditors. The association has also changed the way in which this category of prisoners is handled by the justice system by emphasising the fact that these women are victims of poverty and not driven by criminality. Thanks to the advocacy role played by the CFPA, a special provision has been made in the law, which allows for these kinds of cases to be revisited and appealed. However, this can only happen when a minor offence is committed, the accused does not have a criminal record and the debt can be paid off.

Further information / resources



In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 85 million                                                      
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system based on Napoleonic law, Islamic religious law, and vestiges of colonial-era laws
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking - 114/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking - 74/99

Update October 2014

Three mobile phone-based solutions to increase access to justice

Countries:         Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda

Keywords:         Anti-discrimination, vulnerable groups, information technology


The problem: Access to legal advice and court transparency

Despite geographical, economic, social and political differences, the availability of official legal information and the accessibility and affordability of civil justice are areas of concern in all these three countries.


The strategy: Use of information technology to increase access to justice

Information technology is being used around the world to increase access to justice in innovative ways. With the introduction of smart phones with access to the internet, it’s easier than ever to educate individuals about their justice systems and their rights.


Kenya – With half the population living below the poverty line and 80 per cent living in rural areas, access to justice in Kenya has been particularly difficult. But when the access to justice gap is thought of as a logistical problem, creative solutions emerge. HiiL Innovating Justice, Kituo Cha Sheria and Space Kenya have teamed up to develop a mobile legal helpdesk called M-Sheria that enables users to send questions about their legal problems via SMS text messages (M-Sheria is Kiswahili for ‘mobile law’). The user receives a confirmation text and later receives a response to their question. Once an answer has been provided

An updated version of M-Sheria will attempt to add an Intelligent Voice Recognition which reads out the answer to the user in either English or Swahili and a location-based map of paralegals and others who can offer personal support.


Uganda – The majority of Ugandans are unaware of their legal rights, but the internet is fast becoming a powerful tool. In 2012, a Ugandan law student used his iPhone to create a tech savvy organisation that uses Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and radio and television partnerships to provide free legal advice and consultations. What began as a Facebook group with a mere 100 members, has grown into Barefoot Law, a non-profit social enterprise with over 16,000 followers. The organisation receives about 50 legal questions a day on a variety of issues..


Indonesia – In an effort to increase transparency and efficiency in the Indonesian court system, an SMS system has been introduced to keep the public informed about how their court fees are being spent. A system like this is particularly effective in Indonesia where there is full nationwide mobile phone coverage and 75 per cent of the population are mobile phone subscribers.

With the new system, courts are able to use SMS to provide a range of details on court cases and specifically show how they are providing access to justice for the poor by itemising their budget. Consequently, public trust in the judicial system has increased.


Further information / resources





In context – country data


  • Population:Approx. 256 million                                                      
  • Form of legal system: civil law system based on the Roman-Dutch model and influenced by customary law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 114/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 46/99

                                                 Civil Justice             67/99

                                                 Open Government  29/99


  • Population:Approx. 47 million                                                       
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Low-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 136/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 86/99

                                                 Civil Justice             72/99

                                                 Open Government  83/99


  • Population:Approx. 40 million                                                       
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of English common law and customary law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Low-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 140/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 90/99

                                                 Civil Justice             59/99

                                                 Open Government  92/99

Using TV to switch people on to their rights


Country:           Mozambique

Keywords:         Labour law standards, labour disputes. ADR. TV programmes


The problem: Lack of access to legal remedies in relation to violations of labour rights

In Mozambican society there is a wide gap in workers’ knowledge of their rights and labour law standards, which results in unfair treatment of poorly paid workers and those that work in the informal sector. Systematic abuses of basic labour rights – such as failure to pay minimum wage, non-paid overtime, non-payment of a monthly salary and unlawful termination of contracts – are common. The mistreatment of these groups is further reinforced by the lack of access to legal remedies because of financial restrictions and ignorance of their labour rights and how to enforce them.


The strategy: Promoting solutions to labour litigation through TV programmes

The Mobile Judge is a pioneering project that began in 2012 and is designed to provide free labour market information to all members of Mozambican society through television. The Mobile Judge is a daily TV programme that targets labour disputes concerning employees in the public sector, healthcare sector, housing/construction sector, teachers, low paid clerks, communication sector and the informal sector all over the country. The project is backed by the Dutch WageIndicator Foundation, an organisation that promotes labour market transparency worldwide. 


The policy is to select cases which affect several people or deal with extreme individual circumstances. The standard format of the programme involves the presentation of the case, after which, each step in the resolution process is shown right through to the final outcome. The programme makes use of informal methods, such as investigative journalism, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques, such as mediation and conciliation. The use of ADR is extremely effective and suited to the work environment as it promotes discussion and the achievement of a common understanding between the disputing parties. Furthermore, the programme also provides workers with free consultation and referral to the judicial process where necessary.


Due to the extensive reach of television, the use of a media platform is an effective means of public education. Each of the TV programme reaches an audience of over four million viewers and has been instrumental in creating a workers’ rights culture in Mozambique. In the first half of 2013, 63 per cent of the labour disputes resolved by the programme involved women. This is important for improving the position of women within the workplace. Moreover, during this same period it resolved the same number of labour disputes as the formal dispute resolution institutions.

The influence of the programme looks set to increase; there are plans to extend the media coverage to include all of Mozambique’s provincial capitals.


Further information / resources

www.innovatingjustice.com/innovations/mobile judge?view_content=details


In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 27 million                                                      
  • Form of legal system: mixed legal system of Portuguese civil law, and customary law. In rural, predominately Muslim villages with no formal legal system, Islamic law may be applied
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Low-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 119/177

Updated October 2014

Using a mobile application to tackle the legal knowledge gap


Country:           Nigeria

Keywords:         Constitution, smartphone, app, awareness raising


The problem: Lack of knowledge of Nigerian law

The population in Nigeria has only basic understanding of the Constitution, the legal rights deriving therefrom, the ways to enforce them under the criminal and civil justice system and how these apply to their daily activities.

In a society such as Nigeria, that is striving to affirm itself as a democracy inspired by the rule of law and respect for human rights, stimulating interest in governance is critical to making progress.


The strategy: Using a smartphone app to inform citizens

Nigeria has the highest number of internet users in Africa and over half of them have access to the internet via their mobile devices. Therefore, a smartphone app may be the appropriate way to reach out to Nigeria’s citizens.

Pledge 51 developed the ‘Nigerian Constitution for all’ project aimed at informing Nigerian citizens about the nation’s laws in an easy and accessible way. The free app provides access to Nigeria’s amended Constitution with options to surf and search for certain topics. The programmers’ goal is ‘to ensure that a majority of the country’s citizens know the Constitution so that we can begin to intelligently hold our leaders accountable for the provision of our constitutional rights.’

In January 2011 the first version of the Nigerian Constitution app for blackberry devices was launched and 80,000 downloads were recorded. The second version of the app was launched in 2012 and made available on major mobile device platforms as well as Facebook and other social networks; the new version also includes extras such as a legal directory and discussion forums. The app has received in excess of half a million downloads. 

The app continues to be downloaded by Nigerian citizens and a demand has emerged for other Nigerian legal documents to be available in a similar app format, such as the Evidence Act of 2011. Pledge 51 has also developed a similar app on the Zimbabwean Constitution. Other programmers have created apps for the Ghanaian, Indian, and Kenyan constitutions.


Further information / resources




In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 183 million                                                     
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law (in 12 northern states), and traditional law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 144/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 93/99

                                                 Open Government  76/99

Updated October 2014

A radio programme to tackle government officials’ impunity


Country:           Nigeria

Keywords:         Radio, media ,accountability, impunity


The problem: The impunity of government officials

Access to justice is a problem that takes many forms in Nigeria: lengthy pre-trial detention is common, especially among the poor; allocation of responsibilities among law enforcement institutions is uncoordinated, which leads to grave inefficiencies and innumerable breaches of constitutional rights; police, in practice, often make arrests before investigating complaints; and impunity, namely for government officials, is rampant. This latter barrier is particularly troubling because the level of impunity exhibited by government officials and flagrant disregard for the consequences of their actions is reminiscent of a military regime.


The strategy:  Direct citizen participation and public denunciation as a solution

Accountability to laws by all persons, institutions and entities (public and private) including the state itself, and equal enforcement of laws are cornerstones of the establishment of the rule of law. A morning radio programme in the Nigerian capital of Abuja is allowing citizens to take an active role in demanding accountability from the government, and its representatives, therefore facilitating access to justice.

The Brekete Family Radio (BFR) is a reality radio program serving as a public complaint forum or people’s court. The programme is conducted in pidgin English and involves assistance by volunteer lawyers. People call in to report on issues of impunity and the panel sitting in the studio discusses the issues and invites the public to give advice to the plaintiffs. In a country where mechanisms for accountability are severely impeded, Brekete Family Radio has become one of the last resorts of the average Nigerian.

Sometimes, the host calls the government official involved in the complaint while on the air so that the official can offer an explanation for the alleged violation. This type of public accountability inquest is successful in putting a large number of public officers on the spot and has achieved significant results – both real and perceived by those in the community – in overcoming the barrier of impunity.

The programme is aired in five Nigerian states and has an estimated audience of around 20 million listeners. It also produces a monthly newsletter. While the average Nigerian may ordinarily never grasp the importance of issues such as open government and public procurement, the work of the Brekete Family Radio in engaging with and educating the Nigerian people in helping to tackle this access to justice problem.


Note: At the IBA conference in 2014 there was discussion about radio programmes of this type. The BFR programme was not discussed specifically but it was observed that there are other programmes of the same kind. There was some scepticism about the extent to which public denunciation or challenge had any meaningful effect. At times, it was felt, denunciation was merely denunciation and had no effect, and could also be made without the target being given an opportunity to respond.  It was clear from the discussion that much more analysis of these programmes would be required before being able to reach a conclusion about the ways in which they contributed to overcoming barriers to access to justice.       



Further information / resources



In context – country data


  • Population: approx. 183 million                                                     
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law (in 12 northern states), and traditional law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 144/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 93/99

                                                 Open Government  76/99

October 2014

Combatting Sexual Exploitation of Children


Country:           Philippines

Keywords:         trafficking, law enforcement. prosecution, social services


The problem: Effective enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws

A huge population, growing urbanisation and poverty give rise to a set of drivers for human trafficking, including sex trafficking, in the Asia Pacific region. The problem of exploitation for the commercial sex of minors and adults occurs throughout the Philippines; however, the Cebu region, located at the confluence of transport networks and characterised by a booming economy and tourism from all over the world, is a human trafficking hub, operating contemporaneously as a source, point of transit and destination. The Philippines has criminalised human trafficking through the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, but availability of protection under this law strongly depends on a functioning public justice system.

The strategy: Addressing law enforcement through multi-stakeholder cooperation

Project Lantern, a five-year anti-sex trafficking project led by International Justice Mission (IJM), aimed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a strategy based on law-enforcement to reduce the prevalence of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Metro Cebu area. The promotion of law enforcement involved the provision of social services on the one hand, and prosecution and conviction of perpetrators through the court system on the other.

The project’s primary goal was to mobilise counter-trafficking stakeholders to support the effective enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws as a critical component of a comprehensive counter-trafficking strategy. IJM sought to reduce the number of sex-trafficking victims in Cebu and make the reduction sustainable by increasing the capacity of counter-trafficking stakeholders.

The project has seen a great deal of success. A team of researchers found a 79 per cent reduction in availability of minors for sex during the project, which indicates that the publicly available market in sexually trafficked or commercially exploited minors decreased dramatically. A separate research team concluded that Project Lantern has ‘demonstrated its merit by contributing to significantly enhanced police operations, services to rescued victims, and prosecution of criminals as well as to public justice system that is increasingly capable and mobilised to crack down on and deter sex traffickers.’


Further information / resources



In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 102 million                                                     
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of civil, common, Islamic, and customary law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 94/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking       60/99

                                                 Criminal Justice             73/99

                                                 Regulatory Enforcement 60/99

Udpated October 2014

A mobile court to increase access to justice


Country:           Philippines

Keywords:         Case backlog, mediation, juvenile justice


The problem: Significant delays in access to justice

Access to justice is affected by the physical accessibility of justice institutions. Where justice institutions are physically remote, the barriers to justice will be greater, especially for the poor. In the Philippines, people living in remote areas face particular difficulties in gaining access to courts and informal mechanisms of dispute settlement such as mediation or arbitration. When they do, there may be significant delays before obtaining a solution to their justice problem. Moreover, jails in the Philippines are notoriously overcrowded and many inmates wait months, if not years, before their cases are heard. Timely release may also be a problem related to case backlog.


The strategy: An innovative programme transforms buses into mobile courtrooms

The Justice on Wheels project was launched in 2004 by the Supreme Court to alleviate backlogs and make justice more accessible to remote areas of the country that lack functioning courts, especially in relation to juvenile justice. These buses serve as both courtrooms in the front and mediation centres in the back. Each bus travels with a court stenographer, docket clerk, process server and courtroom guard. Youths are given access to judges, prosecutors, mediators, clerks, and lawyers. The judges take turns hearing cases.

The programme initially targeted cases where children were detained for a longer period than the maximum penalty for their case. It has been successful in this objective – in its first week, 60 children were released. After two years of success working with youths, the programme was expanded to assist adults as well. It now extends beyond providing legal assistance to inmates and also delivers free health and dental care to secure the wellbeing of prisoners who are subjected to overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions.


Further information / resources



In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 102 million                                                     
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of civil, common, Islamic, and customary law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 94/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking       60/99

                                                 Criminal justice             73/99

                                                 Regulatory Enforcement 60/99

Updated October 2014

Empowerment of prisoners through an underutilised resource – paralegals


Country:           Rwanda

Keywords:         Case backlog, overcrowded prisons, paralegals


The problem: Overcrowded prisons and significant delays in access to justice

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide approximately 130,000 people were accused of organising and taking part in the genocide, and imprisoned as a result. This significant surge in the prison population put excessive strain on the penal system. Although, these numbers have decreased over time, the legacies of the genocide have been overcrowded prisons in Rwanda and a criminal justice system that is unable to cope with the demands placed upon it.


The strategy: Paralegals providing the link between detainees and the criminal justice system

In July 2009 Penal Reform International, with the support of the European Commission and the Belgian government, piloted a programme designed to address specific shortcomings in the Rwandan prison system. The project aimed to reduce pre-trial detention, safeguard the rights of prisoners through improving access to justice and guaranteeing their right to a fair trial and strengthen the capacity of the criminal justice system to improve the procedure for managing and processing cases.

Paralegals worked simultaneously with prisoners and criminal justice stakeholders. The project was delivered by ten paralegals who worked in five prisons – Kigali, Gitarama, Butare, Cyangugu and Nyagatare. Paralegals provided legal advice to detainees so that they could understand and apply the law to their personal circumstances. Furthermore, the paralegals provided support to the prison administrative department so that detainees’ cases were processed in a timely fashion. They also worked with the various actors in the criminal justice system such as the police, prosecution service, the judiciary, lawyers and any other agencies dealing with the court case to encourage effective collaboration between these various entities.

This two-pronged approach linked prisoners to the criminal justice system and resulted in the efficient management of cases while equipping prisoners with sufficient legal knowledge to enable them to represent themselves.

Between July 2009 and July 2010 there was a marked decrease in the prison population; the programme achieved the permanent release of 625 detainees and the provisional release of 168 detainees. Court administration showed signs of improvement as court summons were issued for 1,055 people and detainees were able to enter pleas and lodge appeals where necessary.



Further information / resources



In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 12.5 million                                                    
  • Form of legal system: Mixed legal system of civil law, based on German and Belgian models, and customary law
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Low-income

Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 49/177

Updated October 2014

Three pocket-sized business cards solutions


Countries:         Spain, Tasmania, Canada

Keywords:         Anti-discrimination, vulnerable groups, legal awareness-raising, fundamental rights



The problem: Discriminatory practices and lack of awareness of fundamental rights

Discrimination against vulnerable groups coupled with a lack of knowledge of fundamental rights within marginalised communities is a problem shared by many jurisdictions.



The strategy: Portable wallet-sized information cards

Spain– The economic crisis in Spain replaced the previously tolerant attitude towards immigrants with a strong anti-immigrant sentiment. Resentment towards immigrants is grounded in the belief that they are a drain on the country’s limited resources and competition for scarce jobs. The human rights organisation Pro Igual has addressed the problem by designing an innovative solution, which places rights within the reach of immigrant and minority communities by supplying anti-discrimination crisis cards aimed to these groups. The cards can be downloaded for free on the organisation’s website and are available in English, Spanish and Romanian. They explain what constitutes discrimination in law and outlines action that can be taken when individuals are subjected to discriminatory behaviour.

Tasmania (Commonwealth of Australia) – The Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner provides free pocket-sized cards available for the public in English, Amharic, Swahili and Arabic. The cards give different everyday examples of discrimination and contact information.

Canada – Police brutality in disadvantaged communities inspired Pivot, a local human rights organisation, to take decisive action resulting in the ‘rights cards’, which encourage individuals to complain about police mistreatment. In July 2002, the organisation created ‘police rights cards’ targeted at local NGOs and available in English or French. The cards can be purchased in bulk on the organisation’s website and cost CAD$350 for 1,000 copies. They are divided into two detachable parts: one side of the card has a statement which can be handed to the police upon arrest; the other informs the holder of his/her rights and lists contact numbers for a legal aid lawyer and the Police Complaint Commissioner. The cards are adapted to the different laws in each province.

The success of these cards prompted the organisation to produce cards targeting specific marginalised groups. In 2013 the organisation produced ‘private security rights cards’ to tackle the long standing dispute between private security guards and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside community, and ‘sex rights cards’ for sex workers.


Further information / resources






In context – country data


  • Population:approx. 47 million                                                        
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system with regional variations
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: High-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 40/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 24/99

                                                 Fundamental Rights 14/99


  • Population:approx. 36 million                                                        
  • Form of legal system: Common law system except in Quebec where civil law based on the French civil code prevails
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: High-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 9/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 11/99

                                                 Fundamental Rights 16/99

Updated October 2014

Empowering citizens to report corruption


Country:           Macedonia, Ukraine

Keywords:         Corruption, transparency, information technology


The problem: High levels of corruption and lack of reporting

In Ukraine there is widespread dissatisfaction with the provision of public services by local authorities due to corruption. Similarly, in Macedonia, distrust of the integrity of important public institutions coupled with unwillingness to report corruption has allowed this barrier to access to justice to become firmly entrenched in Macedonian public services.


The strategy: Using texting to report corruption

Endemic corruption has resulted in innovative methods, which use mobile phones to denounce corruption by state bodies. These ground-breaking initiatives have sparked a wave of social activism, which has increased public accountability and accessibility to public services, signalling a turning point in public tolerance for corruption. A quick and easy way to report corruption has emerged as a possible solution: sending a text message.


Macedonia– Report Corruption is a joint project of the organisation Transparency International – Macedonia and the Center for International Relations that allows citizens to report cases of corruption: this can be done for free via SMS texting, through the network of ONE; via mail, by filling out the web application; by telephone; and via twitter using #korupcijaMK. This application is the first of its kind in the Balkans and Europe.

The high uptake of mobile phones in Macedonia (85 per cent in 2010) means that a large number of citizens have a straight-forward and quick means of reporting alleged acts of corruption. After reported cases related to corruption are received, they are fully investigated by Transparency International. Transparency International also provides consultation services to people submitting reports.

On the website (www.prijavikorupcija.org) users can review applications submitted to the site categorised by the type of corruption, and add themselves to the event. Prijavikorupcija.org is operated with Ushahidi. It has been developed as a tool for democratising information, for increasing transparency, and for lowering the barriers for individuals who want to share their access to justice problems.

The app became available in 2012. As of March of 2013, citizen reports had resulted in the investigation of 121 reports.

Ukraine – Corruption has triggered the creation of a trailblazing project designed to reduce the phenomenon and increase citizen engagement in public decision-making. In January 2014, the city council in Ivano-Frankivsk, Western Ukraine with the support of the UNDP Regional Anti-Corruption Project piloted a free mobile phone app, which allows its users to provide feedback on their experience with public bodies. The app contains information about all the providers of public services and has 14 anti-corruption hotlines for corruption reporting. Users can also submit an electronic petition to the city council. Corruption allegations are subject to a 30–45 day time limit. Corruption standards are established by reference to national legal standards. The local council has recently completed a four-month advertising campaign in March to June 2014. It is hoped that ten per cent of the local population will have used the app by the end of the year.


Further information / resources






In context – country data


  • Population: Approx. 2 million                                                         
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Upper-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 67/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 34/99

                                                 Corruption              37/99


  • Population: Approx. 45 million                                                       
  • Form of legal system: Civil law system
  • WB ranking of world economies based on GNI 2014: Lower-middle-income
  • Transparency International Corruption 2013: Ranking 144/177
  • WJP Rule of Law Index 2014: RoL Global Ranking 68/99

                                                 Corruption              94/99

Updated October 2014


The Committee is keen to hear from our members about ombudsman services in their jurisdictions, so welcome contributions or links to websites for ombudsman bodies. This will greatly assist with our research work.

Please contact James Robottom at JRobottom@7br.co.uk


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