Assessment of the Implementation of the National Legal Aid Policy (2014-2018): Progress, Gaps and Challenges

The Legal Aid Forum (LAF) conducted the Assessment of the National Legal Aid Policy (NLAP) with the aim of understanding and analysing its status of implementation thus far, with a special focus on its initial implementation plan running from 2014 to 2018. To achieve this, a mixed methodology, combining both qualitative and quantitative analysis, was applied including an extensive review of the existing literature on the delivery of legal aid services in Rwanda, as well as interviews with key state and non-state stakeholders and focus group discussions (FGDs) with non-state institutions active in legal aid.

Findings highlight the lack (1) of full implementation of the NLAP, (2) of coordination of legal aid, (3) of a legal aid fund that was set to be established and fully operational by June 2015, and (4) of standardised training and capacity development strategy organised on ad hoc basis. Despite the ongoing challenges for legal aid providers, especially non-state actors, they have provided and continue to provide legal aid relatively well, not necessarily in conformity with the policy but according to their internal regulations and good practices. This assessment thus recommends (1) the establishment of a National Legal Aid Steering Committee, (2) ensuring that all relevant legislations under this policy are drafted, (3) the establishment of the Legal Aid Fund and allocation of a budget to the fund, (4) the development of a comprehensive Legal Aid Guide, (5) setting up Operational and Quality Standards for Legal Aid Provision and (6) strengthening the delivery of legal aid services.

Keywords: National Legal Aid Policy (NLAP); Legal aid services; Access to justice; Legal and policy analysis; Rwanda.

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