IBJ in Action
When IBJ first came to Burundi, there were only 70 lawyers working in the entire country, and there was no form of legal aid for its approximately 9 million people. This is not surprising given that Burundi ranks among the three poorest countries in the world. With the agenda for development straining to meet a myriad of urgent needs, few resources are directed towards fostering the rule of law.
IBJ recognises that local criminal defence attorneys operate on the front lines to end torture. In 2014, IBJ signed an agreement with the Vice President of the National Independent Commission of Human Rights providing meals and transport to lawyers taking cases in Bujumbura while also expressing its commitment to aid IBJ in the neglected defender side of the criminal justice equation. With a Defender Resource Centre located in the capital city, IBJ has planted the seed of infrastructure that will need to grow if Burundi is to one day fulfil the promise of providing legal aide to its people.
IBJ Defender Resource Center
- IBJ has established relationships with key justice sector partners.
- IBJ mobilises sympathetic defence lawyers to directly represent clients.
- IBJ brings together lawyers, prosecutors, magistrates, police officers and prison officials for joint trainings on all aspects of the legal process.
- Rights awareness campaigns demonstrate individual legal rights to counsel, to a fair trial, and to be free from torture.
- Rights awareness posters are distributed in prisons, police stations, local government offices and other public centers, sparking an overwhelming demand for legal assistance.
- IBJ proposes to expand these activities, particularly to support its effort to build grassroots support for the development of a national policy of legal aid for those in need.
Looking Toward the Future
IBJ seeks to maintain the highest professional standards for its team. Over the next two years, IBJ hopes to conduct several in-house sessions to improve staff members’ advocacy skills while also building their capacity to deliver effective legal defence trainings locally. Additionally, Burundi staff will participate in IBJ’s annual Fellows Summit, where they will benefit from sharing experiences with peers from other IBJ country programs and will improve management and evaluation processes.