JOINT PRESS RELEASE - Mobile Courts Workshop Opens in MogadishuDec 16, 2015
Mogadishu, 16 December 2015 – The Federal Government of Somalia, United Nations, and donor partners welcomed the opening of the Mobile Courts Planning Workshop this week in Mogadishu. Access to a functioning and fair legal system is one of the pillars of sustainable peace and development. As part of the Joint Rule of Law Joint Programme, Mobile Courts provide access to legal aid services and information to those in the most difficult to reach areas.
Forty participants attended the opening of the training, including judges and prosecutors from Mogadishu, Puntland, Interim South West Administration, Interim Jubba Administration, Galmudug as well as emerging states for Hiran and Middle Shebele. The opening also welcomed high level senior officials from the Minister of Justice, Chief Justice, Attorney General, commissioner of custodial Cops and key representatives from UNSOM and UNDP.
Hon. Minister of Justice, Mr.Abdullahi Ahmed Jama said, “It is essential for justice chain actors to collaborate effectively and work side by side in order to have access to justice for all. This is especially true for gender based violence cases for women and children in remote areas since 70% of the Somali communities live in rural areas.”
Mobile Courts were originally recognized in the Somali legal system in the early 1970s and were revitalized in 2008 with the support of UNDP. Currently, outside the capital Mogadishu, justice institutions are only partially operational and the security situation is fundamentally unstable. Communities have little or no access to the formal justice system. Virtually no justice infrastructure exists including courthouses, and there is a significant gap in the capacity and availability of qualified personnel. There is a significant challenge to re-establish a functioning rule of law system in these areas and to reinforce the justice chain, including police, judiciary, lawyers, prosecutors and corrections.
However, emerging regional administrations are providing opportunities to start rebuilding the justice sector. Establishing permanent courts, training judges and judicial staff, developing a court case management system and a legal aid scheme needs time and resources and a long term commitments from government and international stakeholders. In the short-term, establishing Mobile Courts can deliver justice to the people and combine awareness raising programmes is an effective way of establishing the rule of law in areas affected by decades of statelessness and conflict.
The Chief Justice, Mr. Aideed Ilkahanaf supports this critical work. “We have to ensure access to justice for all Somali citizens. More focus should be given to those living in remote areas. I recommend Somali people to have ownership for the justice systems available in the country and to proactively collaborate with justice actors.”
The Mobile Courts scheme has been providing access to justice since 2012 in Somaliland and Puntland. UNDP supported the first four mobile courts in South-Central in 2012 during a 4 month pilot project with the Supreme Court. The pilot project covered 4 districts in Mogadishu (Wadajir, Hodan, Hamarjajab and Hawlwadag) not served by the court system at the time and with large IDP communities. At the end of the 4 month pilot project, the Mobile Courts dealt with 756 cases (340 criminal cases and 416 civil cases).
“The mobile court scheme is temporary solution, the permanent solution is to establish courts in every district and this needs to be supported for both the government and international community,” Attorney General Dr. Ahmed Ali Dahir said.
With support from the international community the Federal Government of Somalia’s Ministry of Justice is building a stronger, safer justice sector for the people of Somalia where access to qualified and competent law enforcement and justice is particularly challenging. Through the Joint Rule of Law Programme, work has recommenced to establish the Mobile Courts in Mogadishu and throughout South-Central Somalia. With the Leadership of the Supreme Court, all actors and stakeholders both at the federal government level in Mogadishu and at regional levels work hand-in-hand to start Mobile Court operations. This workshop marks the commencement of these important activities and will provide all actors with a common understanding and vision for the Mobile Courts and its legal framework, as well as agreement on priority areas and strategy.
The European Union Special Envoy and Ambassador to Somalia Michele Cervone d'Urso called upon judicial officers to lead by example and provide servant leadership. "Mobile courts provide a good platform for locals who cannot otherwise access justice to get such crucial services in their doorsteps which is likely to help communities heal from years of conflict and help foster peace and reconciliation," Amb. Cervone d'Urso said.
With generous support from the European Union and UK-DFID, UN partners are working to support and strengthen government and civil society institutions to deliver fair and rights-based justice services.
“Delivery of basic services in the justice chain – policing, judiciary, and corrections – is fundamental to establishing rule of law,” said, Mitch Dufresne, Chief Joint Justice and Corrections Section of the Rule of Law & Security Institutions Group (ROLSIG), UNSOM.
“The UN is committed to supporting Somalia in establishing rule of law, together with state and peace building. Mobile courts and legal aid are essential to delivery of these services, extending out beyond Mogadishu to the sub national entities, particularly in the recovered areas.”