Bringing justice to IDPs
Garowe, 5 June 2010 - The lawyers and paralegals of the Puntland Legal Aid Center go weekly to visit the 24 IDP camps that are scattered in and around Garowe to help displaced people with legal issues. The staff of the Center inform the IDPS of their rights, provide them with legal advice, and when needed, with free representation.
Today, Youssuf, the Director of the Center, and Asha, a paralegal, are taking us to the Ajuran camp, by the river in Garowe. The camp was set up in October 2009 and hosts now 65 families (around 300 people) who fled the violence in South Central Somalia and now live in makeshift sheds made of rags. To scrape a living, the women at the camp go to town as day workers and wash the laundry or do the cleaning at people’s homes while the men stay behind.
One young woman tried to set up a small business, selling some basic goods – sugar, tomatoes- on the premises, but complains to Asha that the landlord is preventing her from selling anything in the camp.
She has invested nearly 200 US$ in stock and is now unable to sell it. The woman explains that the landlord himself has a small shop in the camp, and does not allow competition. Asha records the facts, tried to get an explanation from the landlord’s representative. She is not satisfied with his answer, and takes the telephone number of the landlord with whom she will attempt to solve the matter amicably. If that fails, however, one of her lawyer colleague at the Centre would take the case to court, and represent the woman, free of charge.
Every week, the staff at the Puntland Legal Aid Centre interview people living in the camp, and ask the camp manager to report, to determine whether new cases require either an amicable resolution through a paralegal, or representation by a lawyer. They deal mostly with theft, robbery, and rape cases and when needed, bring those cases to court.
This initiative is part of a joint project between the Puntland Legal Aid Center and UNDP Somalia that increases access to justice for vulnerable groups and economically deprived people in Puntland.
The joint UNDP and Puntland Legal Access Center is running throughout Puntland. The five lawyers based in Gardo, Galkayio, Bosaso and Garowe, as well as 15 paralegals (11 of them women) who work in this project have contributed to the release of prison inmates who were detained well beyond the limit of legal detention or for minor offences, raised awareness on legal aid and legal rights among traditional elders, IDPs and criminal justice professionals. From July 2009 to February 2010, they provided legal aid and representation to 530 people, of which 495 were from vulnerable groups (juveniles, refugees, IDPs, minority and economically deprived groups)