Legal Aid Center in Northern Lebanon Trains Young Lawyers and Promotes Legal Knowledge

September 2010

Working with local partners the Father Afif Osseirane Foundation and St. Joseph University’s Professional Center for Mediation, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) helped establish the Northern Lebanon Public Service Center. The legal services and training center, funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Netherlands Ministry of Development and Cooperation, is located in Tripoli and is the first of its kind in Lebanon.

The center, which opened in January, provides legal assistance and mediation services to indigent and marginalized residents of northern Lebanon, with a particular emphasis on stateless persons, juvenile defendants, at-risk youth and refugees. The center is currently handling more than 60 cases. An associated awareness campaign promotes legal knowledge and understanding among those organizations that serve marginalized communities. Upcoming advocacy efforts will target legislators and policy makers, providing recommendations on legal and administrative reforms.

As part of its education program, 30 young legal professionals have been trained on practical legal and mediation skills, international human rights law and legal issues pertaining to the center’s target groups. This interactive program has been highly effective in sensitizing trainees to the problems facing these vulnerable communities. As one trainee remarked, “A child’s place is not in jail, but in school. We want to help these children get out of prison so they can gain an education.”

This summer, 11 law students at Lebanese University’s Northern Lebanon Campus completed a three-month training and internship program at the center. This experience exposed them—many for the first time—to casework and public interest advocacy under the supervision and mentoring of experienced Lebanese lawyers.

By enabling lawyers and social service providers in northern Lebanon to more effectively represent disenfranchised communities, the program increases access to justice and promotes peaceful resolution of disputes through legal channels. This program also seeks to build and sustain such capacity in northern Lebanon, moving beyond traditional reliance on Beirut-based entities. Such steps are critical to promoting the rule of law and ensuring stability in Lebanon.

To learn more about the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s work in Lebanon, contact us at rol@staff.abanet.org

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