Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said overcrowding in cells and prisons around the country is a serious problem. She added that election related cases could leave cells and prisons in a very desperate situation in which they may not have space to accommodate more people into an already overcrowded prisons.
She said the Board has 20 lawyers around the country who will be defending indigents charged with elections related offences. ‘This is something the Board cannot do alone and this why this consortium comes in handy in providing legal assistance to those who will be prosecuted for election related offences,’ she said and added: ‘This will mean referring cases among members of the Consortium.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles drew attention to one of the recommendations at a recent training workshop on Elections for staff of the Legal Aid Board and partners which relates to the setting-up of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Roundtable. The Roundtable should include representatives of political parties to mediate speedily mediate some of the disputes relating to the elections that may arise. She added that the Board’s ADR will also be mediating some election related disputes to cut down on unnecessary lawsuits.
Earlier on, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai of the Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI) explained the rationale for the consortium which involves providing legal aid to election related cases and raising awareness on the electoral code including the offences in some of the local languages. This will also include simplifying the Electoral Laws.
He said this is not the first time his organization is involved in the provision of legal aid to electoral cases. ‘We had a mobile law clinic in the 2012 Elections,’ he said.
George Mustapha of SDI spoke on the need to set up separate Electoral Courts as provided for in the Public Elections Act 2012. He noted that the other courts already have too many cases to handle electoral offences. Mr. Abdulai said since resources are limited, a compromised could be struck wherein special days will be allocated to electoral cases.
Other member organizations of the Consortium present at the meeting include West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Peace Africa Alliance: Consulting, Educating and Training (PAACET) and Parent Without Partners and Victims Forum.