04 July 2014

Timor-Leste’s Court of Appeal and Counterpart International Sign Agreement to Strengthen District Court Functionality and Increase Access to Justice

East Timor Court of Appeal Chambers
ETLJB 04/07/2014 Dili, Timor-Leste (3 July 2014) –  Today the Court of Appeal and Counterpart International signed an agreement to work together to strengthen district court functionality and increase access to justice through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Ba Distrito project.  Ba Distrito is a 4 year, $6,000,000 project funded by the American people through USAID and implemented by Counterpart International and its partner Tetra Tech DPK.

The overall goal of the Ba Distrito project is to strengthen local governance and improve access to justice. Guided by the Government of Timor-Leste’s (GoTL’s) Strategic Development Plan and the Justice Sector Strategic Plan, Ba Distrito aims to support the GoTL’s efforts in bringing access to justice closer to the community in the rural areas through the provision of free legal aid services to the poor and strengthening the functionality of district courts.  The justice components of the project will be piloted in Baucau and Oecusse districts.

Throughout the life of the project, USAID’s Ba Distrito project will work closely with Timor-Leste’s Court of Appeal and the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the institutional and human capacity of the district courts to respond more effectively to demands for justice  and increase court functionality in order to make the district courts more accessible to the poor and vulnerable.

Complementary to supporting these efforts to improve court functionality and efficiency, Ba Distrito also works closely with local civil society and legal aid organizations to bring legal education campaigns to rural areas, provide free legal aid services to the poor and disadavantaged members of community, monitor the effectiveness of the formal justice system, and contribute to the GoTL’s efforts to create an integrated, sustainable, and responsive framework for the provision of legal aid services in the country. Currently, Ba Distrito is supporting the Timor Loros’ae Lawyers’ Association (AATL), the Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP) and Fundacão Fatuk Sinae Oecusse (FFSO) to engage in these activities. Additional grants will be developed and competetively awarded to local organizations to implement access to justice activities in districts where USAID’s Ba Distrito project is being implemented.

Commenting on contributions that the Ba Distrito project would make to justice in Timor-Leste, President of the Court of Appeal, the Honorable Justice Guilhermino da Silva commented that the project would “expand justice to the rural areas and speed up the resolution process in the Courts”.

Notable progress has been made by GoTL, with support from development partners, to strengthen the judiciary and improve access to justice. However persistent challenges remain.  “Ba Distrito will work together with the district courts themselves to first identify and then prioritize areas for improvement.  Through this collaborative approach, Ba Distrito will be able to target its support in each pilot district court to create lasting positive changes in functionaltiy that will improve access to justice for vulnerable and rural populations” said Carolyn Tanner, Chief of Party for Counterpart International.

USAID’s Ba Distrito project is managed by Counterpart international. Its access to justice components are implemented by sub-grantee Tetra Tech DPK which has carried out access to justice and rule of law programs in over 40 countries.  The Ba Distrito project, which will run until 23 September 2017, is being implemented in 5 Districts starting first in Baucau, Covalima, and Oecusse and extending into Ermera and Liquica districts next year.

The signing ceremony was attended by the President of Court of Appeal the Honorable Justice Guilhermino da Silva; other judges and judicial officals; representatives of USAID, Tetra Tech DPK and Counterpart International;  Mr. Luis Sampaio Oliveira the Executive Director of Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP); and representatives from the Timor-Leste Private Lawyers Association (AATL) and legal aid organisation Fundasaun Fatuk Sinae Oecusse (FFSO). Source: Ba Distrito Project, Counterpart International Press Release 03/07/2014 

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