Support to legal aid has been at the core of MINUSTAH’s engagement in the rule of law sector since 2007 to help increase stability and security in the country. In particular, the Mission has been working with other international partners to expand the establishment of the Bureaux d’Assistance Légale (BAL) across Haiti.
A key partner of MINUSTAH, in this regard, is the USAID-funded, Haiti Justice Sector Strengthening Programme (JSSP/USAID). To facilitate the access of Haitians, particularly those who are indigent and vulnerable, to legal advice, legal representation and mediation services, JSSP/USAID has a legal assistance component in its programme which aims to support improvements to the BAL and explore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Managed by the local bar associations, the objectives of the BAL generally are to:
- provide legal assistance to indigent persons including those held in pre-trial detention;
- reduce the length of pre-trial detention;
- reduce the level of violence and criminality in disadvantaged neighbourhoods;
- ensure access to justice is respected as a right, and that it is systematically enforced in criminal proceedings;
- deliver civic education including the training of community leaders; and
- provide mediation services as alternative dispute resolution method.
In light of the need for further improvement, the streamlining of procedures and methodology, as well as the strengthening of programme coordination, development and operational effectiveness, and, as MINUSTAH proceeds with its transitional planning and JSSP/USAID plans further support to legal aid, it is opportune to take stock of good practices and the lessons learned from the BAL initiatives.
Such a lessons learned study will feed into planning for the MINUSTAH transition and help to consolidate the legacy of the United Nations in developing the rule of law sector in Haiti. It will also help inform DPKO Headquarters, other United Nations peace operations and United Nations funds and programs regarding the approaches applied in Haiti.