Peace Through Representation: The ILF Method

A homeless woman charged with loitering. An orphan in court for stealing fruit from a merchant. A  young boy fighting for his rights — and his life — after being hit by a police car.  These are the kinds of people who depend on public defenders to ensure that their rights are upheld in the judicial process. Millions of poor and marginalized persons charged with criminal offenses in countries around the world are facing arbitrary and extended pretrial detention, torture, coerced confessions, and wrongful convictions. When state institutions to not adequately protect citizens, provide access to justice, or guard against corruption, the likelihood of violent conflict increases.

In the absence of government support for legal aid, civil society organizations can make up the gap in representation that can be the difference between fifteen years in prison and an acquittal. In country after country, the International Legal Foundation strives to provide support for indigent accused when they need it most.

Our lawyers take over seven thousand cases a year, helping to create an atmosphere of peace in countries with a legacy of conflict. Moreover, our advocacy is shifting the conversation worldwide, pushing countries and international institutions to prioritize access to legal aid as a fundamental human right. The ILF played a key role in the adoption by the United Nations of the first international instrument dedicated to the right to legal aid, the Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems. Since then, our biennial International Conferences on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems have assisted countries in developing concrete action plans to address how they provide criminal defense services to the poor. We’re also working to launch the first International Legal Aid Network, a forum intended to inform and empower legal aid providers around the world.

That’s why, on September 21, the International Day of Peace, I hope you’ll consider making a donation to the International Legal Foundation. Your donation could provide transportation to a courthouse or detention center, funding for a roundtable with judicial stakeholders to analyze the quality of legal representation, or the printing fees for a campaign to help young men and women learn about their right to an attorney. Thank you for your support.
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Jennifer Smith
Executive Director, International Legal Foundation

 

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