Protection Of Rights Of Vulnerable Groups In The Archdiocese Of Bamenda.
The Justice and Peace Commission through this project intends to contribute towards improving the living situation of the inhabitants of the Bamenda region, through the promotion of respect for and compliance with Civil and general Human Rights, Democratic Rules and the condemnation of Corruption.
1. Access to justice for vulnerable groups in the North West Region has improved
2. The number of illegal arrests and illegal detentions has decreased in the four target prisons
3. Community Vigilante Groups develop methods to effectively prevent Child Trafficking
4. Survivors of Child Trafficking have been successfully reintegrated in their families and communities
Under the theme: "PROMOTING GENDER EQUALITY AND WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT - OVERCOMING OBSTACLES, the Justice and Peace Service commemorated the International Women's Day 2016 in Collaboration with Women Peace Committees (WPCs) in Ngoketunjia Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. This was on Monday the 7th of March 2016 at the Balikumbat Development Organization (BADO) Hall in Balikumbat.
The Justice and Peace Service of the Archdiocese of Bamenda for 7 years running has been particularly involved and vocal on issues relating to child trafficking in the region. The Service’s experience in combating trafficking is strictly linked to the ‘3P’ paradigm - prevention, protection, and prosecution which serves as a fundamental framework to combat contemporary forms of slavery.
Acknowledging that Prevention efforts are key components to monitor and combat trafficking, efforts have been focused on public awareness campaigns that inform and educate communities in source areas and some destination cities about human trafficking so that they can identify victims. To further strengthen prevention efforts, the Service created Vigilante Committees within the source communities and some destination cities to monitor the movement of children, women and other young people within and out of the communities, – a monitoring system that follows up and report on the victims –this effort empowers the communities to take responsibilities over their own. Still within the prevention phase, several counter trafficking conferences and colloquia were organized with Law Enforcement Officers, members of the judiciary, Local Councils, related government departments, social workers and other stakeholders. The effort to prevent human trafficking is closely intertwined with protection and prosecution measures.
Effective Law enforcement and protection practices are essential for ensuring stronger prevention policies. The Service considers Protection as key to the victim-centered approach and its 3 protection efforts constituted rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration. Over the years 120 victims have been rescued from the trafficking ring, 100 were rehabilitated- through assisting 56 in registering their births and establishing birth certificates for them, providing psycho-social support, placed them in foster homes, enrolled 89 into vocational training institutions, and 11 are still undergoing formal education at different levels. Out of these, 22 have been reintegrated in their communities where they are engaged in the trades they learnt during their vocational training course.
Prosecution is the third element that is offender/trafficker-focused and not entirely within the remit of the Service, yet the Service has been able to support the first ever case of human trafficking related crime, a case of international trafficking of a young girl and her son. The trafficker was prosecuted in the Bamenda High Court Mezam in the North West Region and sentenced to a 5 year jail term where she is actually serving in the Bamenda Central Prison, and the victim has been reintegrated to her family and community in Nigeria where she now lives happily.
Despite all these efforts made, the existing legislation though limited in terms of who qualifies as a victim, is equally not victim-centered (does not address the needs and interest of the victim) as such the victims are not willing to identify their traffickers’ talk less of engaging a judicial process or even willing to be a witness in such a matter. Most victims end up with no basic education either formal or vocational and still remain vulnerable to trafficking even when they are identified and traced back to their families and communities. The population still does not see trafficking as a crime with untold consequences to the victim, families, communities and the country at large.
The Justice and Peace Commission conducted a survey on the access of people to the justice system in 2008. Analysis of this survey proved that, despite government reforms geared at promoting the use of Conventional Justice System (composing of the courts, police/gendarmes and lawyers), the potential users of the Conventional Justice System are ignorant about their exercises. Even those who are aware could not easily access and afford for them because of the administrative bottlenecks, cumbersome procedures and the corrupt nature of the officials. Those who can even afford to overcome these hindrances are still not satisfied with the assistance received. To further substantiate this, the Justice and Peace Commission is continuously receiving complaints from the public.
Alternative Dispute Resolution unit
The JPC formed an Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit (ADR) to make Justice accessible to the public. ADR refers to those processes other than a court hearing, where an impartial person helps the parties to resolve the dispute issues between them. ADR options include neutral evaluation, conferencing, negotiation, mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The process also assists with the early resolution of disputes and identification of the real issues in disputes.
It may also be that parties will have an ongoing relationship after the dispute is resolved, such as a family matter or employment issue, so using a method of alternative dispute resolution that promotes agreement between the parties may be a better option.
This Unit is geared at providing Legal Aid and advice to the general public, be it destitute cases or well to do persons who are just ignorant about the law. The level of assistance issued will depend on the individuals profile questionnaire form which is filed alongside his/her complaint. The Unit consists of a Judicial Assistant, Legal adviser, two volunteers and the Coordinator of the Commission.
Access to justice is not just about courts and lawyers, but is also about better and early access to information and services to help people prevent and resolve disputes. While courts are an important part of the justice system, there are many situations where other options for resolving a dispute will be faster, cheaper and more suitable in the circumstances. Sometimes, simply having access to good information can help people to resolve their own disputes quickly and effectively.
In complex and entrenched disputes, a court determination may be the most appropriate outcome.