ILF-West Bank's dedicated lawyers and staff
The leading global advocate for the right of the poor to legal counsel, the ILF assists countries emerging from conflict or in transition to establish quality, effective criminal legal aid systems. To date, we have established public defender systems in Afghanistan, Nepal, the West Bank, and Tunisia. In 2016, the ILF is working to expand our reach – with the help of our supporters on GlobalGiving. We’re focusing on assisting government in other parts of the world, such as Liberia, Myanmar, and the Ukraine, in upholding the rule of law by ensuring access to justice to poor and marginalized accused, particularly during the earliest stages of the case.
When the ILF determines there is a need for its services in a particular country, we review the constitution and other laws, and identify whether basic fair trial principles exist in law. Without the baggage of the history and practices of the country, the ILF’s legal experts often identify legal rights of the accused that local lawyers were not aware of, and have never utilized. The ILF then works to train local lawyers, case-by-case, day-by-day to argue for those rights to be upheld.
One crucial aspect of the right to legal aid which the ILF will target in these countries in 2016 is the right to early access to a lawyer.In most courts around the world, investigation documents prepared by the police have a significant impact on the development of the case against a defendant, and ultimately in the court’s decision. Without access to a lawyer at the beginning of the criminal justice process, abuse and torture by police and interrogators is generally left unchecked. Information that determines the outcome of a trial is often obtained at the arrest or interrogation stage, and if a lawyer is not present, police or prosecutors frequently coerce detainees into confessing. It is critical that all accused have early access to quality counsel to protect and advocate for their rights by challenging illegal practices.
One recent example of the importance of this occurred in the ILF's West Bank office. The client, a poor day laborer, was arrested and charged with weapons charges which could have resulted in a lengthy prison sentence. However, at trial, his ILF defense lawyer successfully argued, and was able to show, that the client was tortured into confessing by being beaten and hung in chains from the ceiling, and that thus the statements made to police during their investigation were unreliable and null. The court agreed, showing its commitment to upholding both national and international law, and ruled that the statement was inadmissible - ultimately acquitting the client.
ILF-West Bank at work
Lawyer Emad Salaymih, whose client was tortured