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April 29, 2016

ABA ROLI Provides Legal Assistance to Women Facing Harassment in Guinea

The perpetrator allegedly held his victim at knife point after an argument they had…forcing her to strip in front of a camera -

In an effort to help women understand and defend their rights in Guinea, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and its local partner, the Guinean branch of Lawyers Without Borders (Avocats Sans Frontières/Guinée (ASF)), worked to provide legal assistance. Through the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), they assisted close to 40 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), discrimination or harassment by training and mentoring ASF staff on how to best represent and advocate for their clients’ rights.

Members of the pro bono legal team with Lawyers without Borders/Guinea.

A team of seven pro bono Guinean lawyers worked to serve women and girls in remote, rural areas by providing them convenient and discrete legal services. To raise awareness of the legal system to defend women’s rights and combat impunity for SGBV crimes, ASF conducted radio campaigns that reached hundreds prior to the start of their work in these communities. Because many in Guinea are intimidated by formal justice institutions, this team of pro bono advocates personally accompanied their clients to regional town centers to represent them during police investigations and legal proceedings. As the team gained a reputation among local police, court officials, and the local population as effective human rights defenders, ASF activities expanded to new geographic areas and the number of cases referred to them increased.

ASF, with ABA ROLI’s technical and financial support, is a powerful advocate for women facing terrible harassment and abuse in Guinea who might otherwise have no recourse –

ASF was alerted by authorities of an egregious case involving a man who publically shamed a young woman by posting compromising picture of her on social media. The perpetrator allegedly held his victim at knife point after an argument about the repayment of a loan, forcing her to strip in front of a camera. These images were later posted online and caused the young woman great psychological distress and social stigmatization. 

ASF, after confirmation from ABA ROLI’s Project Director that they were the best advocates available to support this woman based on their experience though the UNDP program with these types of crimes, took up the case. ASF accompanied their client during interviews with the national police’s gender protection unit to ensure her rights were upheld throughout the investigation. In addition to this legal assistance, ASF coordinated with local women’s protection organizations to hold a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Social Action shortly after this incident took place. Chanting slogans such as “stop violence against women” and “put an end to women’s humiliation”, the women’s rights defenders succeeded in ensuring an arrest warrant was issued for the alleged perpetrator.   

Police later found the accused in Côte d'Ivoire and are holding him, and two alleged accomplices, in custody. ASF and ABA ROLI will continue to help the survivor to seek justice as the case is brought court.

ABA ROLI has worked in Guinea since late 2012, offering vital legal aid to women and marginalized populations in the Conakry, Kankan and N’Zérékoré regions. To learn more about our work in Guinea, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].