By SU MYAT MON |FRONTIER
MANDALAY — A new “Justice Centre” in Mandalay aims to improve access to justice by offering free legal advice to low-income and marginalised people, including women and children.
The British Council and NGO International Bridges to Justice opened the centre at a ceremony on July 25 that was attended by many government officials. Representatives from the organisations said the centre aimed to both improve access to justice and promote knowledge of the legal process.
“Every person, regardless of their background, is welcome to access the services of the Justice Centre,” said Ms Susan Lee, an adviser to the British Council’s MyJustice initiative.
Ms Karen Tse, founder and chief executive officer of IBJ, said the centre would be battling an ingrained lack of transparency in the police force and judicial system.
“This is an issue that doesn’t only affect people in prison, and people who are accused of a crime,” she said. “[There’s an effect on] all [parts of] society when you do not have security under the law of Myanmar.”
The opening of the Mandalay centre came a day after the British Council and IBJ launched a Justice Centre in the Shan State capital Taunggyi.
The first justice centres under the MyJustice programme opened in Yangon and the Mon State capital Mawlamyine in 2015. Since then, they have provided legal representation to almost 2,400 clients and legal advice to about 1,400 others.
According to MyJustice, the centres have “resulted in changes in behaviour amongst institutional stakeholders towards poor people accused of crimes, increasing demand from vulnerable communities for free legal services and made legal representation available to people without an increase in costs”.
Further justice centres are expected open soon in Bago Region, Shan State and Kayin State.
MyJustice is a four-year programme implemented by the British Council and funded by the European Union that aims to improve access to justice.