Betsy and Rick with ILF-Nepal staff
The ultimate goal of all ILF programs is to establish effective, sustainable, locally-run, government-supported public defender systems in post-conflict and transitional countries. In Nepal, where the ILF established a public defender office in 2007, we are now taking the final steps toward transitioning ILF-Nepal into a locally registered Nepali public defender office.
Over the past several years, the ILF has worked to progressively nationalize ILF-Nepal. Supervision and training was turned over to local lawyers, while fiscal accountability and management gradually shifted from the ILF’s headquarters in New York to local staff. ILF-Nepal then registered with the Government of Nepal as a public defender office, the first organization in Nepal to do so.
After ILF-Nepal’s official transition to local management, scheduled for June 2016, it will be known as the Public Defender Society of Nepal, or PDS-Nepal. PDS-Nepal’s Constitution states that its objectives are to preserve the constitutional right to free legal representation; to enhance access to justice; to explore ways to reduce the number of detainees and prisoners in Nepal; to conduct research related to the provision of criminal defense services for indigent and marginalized accused; to conduct training programs for public defenders and other legal practitioners; and to organize and execute any other necessary and appropriate programs related to the administration of criminal justice, the rule of law, and fair trials.
To assist in this transition, in April 2016 ILF Program Officer Betsy Walters traveled to Nepal with Rick Jones, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDS). Rick and Betsy conducted an assessment of the management structure and operating procedures of ILF-Nepal, in order to understand whether there are changes that should be made to make the country program more efficient and effective. The trip was an exchange that allowed local Nepali management direct access to the expertise of one of the largest public defender office in New York.
As the head of NDS, Rick Jones has unique experience working with justice sector actors to ensure access to justice. He is also experienced in developing the capacity of lawyers and ensuring quality services; engaging in effective case intake mechanisms; and managing the administration of a large public defender organization. Insight into all of these areas is invaluable to local leadership in Nepal as they transition into a local independent public defender office.
During the trip, in addition to assessing the program in terms of case management, case intake, quality service provision and leadership. Rick and Betsy also met with various stakeholders, including district court judges in Lalitpur and Kathmandu, and the newly elected executive committee of the Nepal Bar Association, to discuss long-term development of ILF-Nepal's programs and criminal legal aid in Nepal overall. A major focus was on helping the government of Nepal and the judges within the Lalitpur district court to envision an early access mechanism. Rick gave these stakeholders examples of how the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and other legal aid services in New York provide representation at this stage of the case.
As a follow-up, the team will produce a report with their findings and recommendations, which will be of use to ILF-Nepal as it prepares to fully transition to autonomy as PDS-Nepal. The report will also be used in helping ILF set benchmarks for new and existing programming around the world.
ILF-Nepal and members of the Nepali justice sector
Ajay, head of ILF-Nepal, with Betsy and Rick
The women lawyers of ILF-Nepal with Betsy