The Legal Aid Forum (LAF) was established in 2006 in order to create a space where organizations that wished to provide legal aid to indigent and vulnerable groups could share information and best practices and collaborate in capacity building, research, and evidence-based advocacy. Through a collaborative process of 30 civil society organizations, LAF was born.
Our first major project was a baseline survey and needs analysis, done in partnership with the Ministry of Justice. The survey identified the challenges faced by indigent and vulnerable people in accessing legal services and by those organizations that were providing some form of legal aid. The findings of this survey led to the forum developing its first three-year strategy, which focused on improving the quality and accessibility of legal aid services.
In 2009, LAF was registered as a national NGO, and for the first time became a fully independent entity. LAF is now composed of 36 national and international NGOs, professional bodies, universities, legal aid clinics, faith based organizations, and trade unions that provide or support legal aid services to the indigent and vulnerable population of Rwanda.
The Legal Aid Forum supports the Government’s endeavors through capacity building, research, advocacy, and the provision of legal aid services. LAF supports the Government of Rwanda’s commitment to universal and timely access to justice, and the steps it has taken to realize this goal at a policy level through the establishment of local access to justice offices. But, much more still needs to be done to realize the goal of universal access to quality legal services.
Our vision is to have a Rwanda where the indigent and vulnerable have equitable access to justice.
Our mission is to promote and support accessible and quality legal aid services to every Rwandan.
The Legal Aid Forum believes that:
Equitable access to justice is crucial to combating poverty, promoting good governance, and the rule of law. It is a basic human right and a indispensable means towards conflict resolution.
Access to justice should not be a right enjoyed only by those who are able to pay for it, but it must be accessible to and affordable to all citizens, including the poor and vulnerable groups
A fair and well-functioning system of legal aid is therefore vital to ensuring justice, fairness, equality, and development.
Since 2006 we have:
Conducted countrywide baseline studies on the provision of legal aid in Rwanda;
Trained 236 lawyers and 401 paralegals;
Published 7 research reports;
Implemented 37 legal aid projects with 60, 132 beneficiaries;
Produced practice manuals on monitoring, evaluation, reporting, and paralegal practices;
Initiated and organized Legal Aid Weeks, which benefited 22,681 people;
Engaged in the process of developing new laws which regulate the Bar Association, the national legal aid policy, and bailiffs;
Became the main representative of national civil society on access to justice.
Our work has directly resulted in:
The draft Law on the Bar which allowed lawyers from civil society organizations to represent clients in court;
The increase of legal aid services provided to poor and vulnerable communities, especially in rural areas;
A new law governing bailiffs;
The Ministry of Justice beginning the process of developing a legal aid policy;
Legal aid providers acquiring the ability to monitor, evaluate, and report on their work;
The reduction of conflicts in communities due to mediation and sensitization;
The increase in public knowledge about rights and opportunities to access legal aid services;
The release of detainees.