IHRLG promotes access to justice by strengthening legal service providers' capacity for applying human rights law and partnering with local groups in building a culture of human rights within the Congolese legal profession.
Responding to needs outlined by human rights lawyers and organizations, IHRLG's DRC team assessed the extent of inadequate access to justice in the DRC's capital and largest city Kinshasa, with an estimated population over 6 million. Based on court and prison visits, a stakeholder identification and analysis exercise, and consultations with lawyers and legal aid NGOs, our assessment report outlined key areas for improving legal services (including legal representation), legal education, documentation support, and more effective organization among legal aid providers. In addition to an inventory of key organizations offering legal services programs and the models they use, the study analyzes the dynamics between them that hinder more effective work, other contextual factors that impede access to justice, and how these can be overcome. Warmly received by DRC legal service providers, our study has formed the basis for a participatory process of developing new approaches and structures to improve access to justice.
At the invitation of the National Bar Association of the DRC and the National Order of Lawyers, IHRLG was instrumental in the conception and development of the Institut des Droits de l'Homme (Human Rights Institute) in Kinshasa. IHRLG continues to train Institute staff and assist them in providing human rights training to legal practitioners, ensuring better coordination between lawyers and NGOs in prison monitoring and support work, assisting the Bar Association's currently under-resourced Bureaux des Consultations Gratuites (free legal aid bureaus), and providing pro bono lawyers with access to legal documentation through a documentation center and electronic law library.
IHRLG also facilitates a human rights litigation working group to increase familiarity with the human rights framework among member groups and thereby encourage the use of international and regional human rights mechanisms in specific cases, and the application of international human rights standards by domestic courts. While reinforcing providers of legal representation and litigation services, a similar process is in place to reinforce NGOs active in community legal education, training of paralegals, and support for prisoners.