The Government has launched the National Action Plan on Legal Aid, 2017-2022 which will serve as a road map for coordinated implementation of legal aid interventions between the government and legal aid actors in the country. The National Action Plan will facilitate the full implementation of the National Legal Aid and Awareness Policy, 2015 as well as the Legal Aid Act 2016.
The National Action Plan on Legal Aid is developed by the National Legal Aid Service (NLAS) whose objective is to provide affordable, accessible, sustainable, credible and accountable legal aid services to indigent persons in Kenya. NLAS is also mandated to provide legal awareness; support community legal services by funding justice advisory centers and promoting alternative dispute resolution methods that enhance access to justice. These services are based on the principles of impartiality, gender equality, and non-discrimination, protection of the marginalized and the rules of natural justice.
Speaking during the launch of the National Action Plan Monday morning, Attorney General Githu Muigai reiterated that legal aid and legal awareness were critical components of access to justice in the country. Parliament established the National Legal Aid Service in 2016 after the enactment of the Legal Aid Act 2016. The Legal Aid Act envisages the provision of free legal aid as a way to facilitate access to justice.
“This National Action Plan on legal aid is a broad collaboration and coordination framework for all actors in the justice sector whose objectives include building stronger justice institutions, improving access to and quality of legal services to members of the public especially the poor and vulnerable while reducing poverty and empowering citizen participation in governance. All these objectives are geared towards enhancing national security,” Professor Muigai stated during the launch.
The launch was witnessed by the Chairperson, Ms. Nazima Malik, together with representatives from the Judiciary, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, National Police Service, Department of Correctional Services, Director of Public Prosecutions, Law Society of Kenya, National council for Person with Disability, Council for Legal Education, the National Treasury, Public Benefits Organizations, members of the Diplomatic Corp as well donor partners led by the European Union.
The Chairperson of the National Legal Aid Services, Ms. Nazlim Malik observed that the goal of the National Action Plan on Legal Aid is to enhance the facilitation of access to justice through a national, sustainable and quality legal aid and awareness framework in line with the Constitution, regional and international human rights standards.
“The Plan is a further demonstration of government’s commitment to ensure access to justice for all persons in line with its constitutional, international and regional obligations and will be used by the national and county governments to promote and facilitate implementation of legal aid programmes and activities to ensure access to justice for all,” Ms. Malik stated.
The 2010 Constitution expanded the Bill of Rights to include for the first time extensive provisions on economic, social and cultural rights. One of the most celebrated aspects was the recognition and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities while promoting social justice. Further, the Constitution obligates the state to ensure access to justice for all persons and protects the rights of every accused person by ensuring that they have a fair trial and an advocate is assigned to the accused person at the cost of the state.