“Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Bangladesh 2018: Legal Problems in daily life”, a study report conducted by HiiL with the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands in partnership with BRAC Human Rights and Legal Aid Services, was launched on 9 May 2018 through a report launching ceremony at BRAC Centre. HiiL (The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law) is a not-for-profit institution based in The Hague, International City of Peace and Justice. Mr. Kazi Riazul Hoque, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh graced the seminar as chief guest. Barrister Sajeda Farisa Kabir, Deputy Director, Human Rights and Legal Aid (HRLS) Programme, BRAC, and Dr. Martin Gramatikov, Director Measuring Justice and Martin Kind Junior Quantitative Justice Data Analyst from HiiL were present as the special guests.
In his deliberation, Mr. Kazi Riazul Hoque said that “impunity needs to be immediately stopped”. He also emphasised on activating village court and suggested the court to strictly follow their jurisdiction and to be careful about what cases or suits they can try and what they cannot.
Dr. Martin Gramatikov delivered a presentation with the following outcome of that study report during the ceremony. HiiL aimed at making the demand for justice of Bangladeshi citizens transparent and their goal was to find out how the people perceive the available justice journeys. Using a bottom-up approach, study team interviewed 6000 randomly selected adults across all districts of Bangladesh during August and September 2017. BRAC Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with users of justice to complement the quantitative data with the human stories that normally stay hidden behind the numbers. The study shows that only approximately 15 million people do not take any form of action when faced with a legal dispute every year. Unresolved legal problems cause significant uncertainty and difficulties at the individual level. Moreover, a lack of justice delivery also undermines trust in the system itself. Four out of five adults in Bangladesh faced one or more legal problem in the past four years. This implies that more than 31 million people a legal problem that requires the protection of the law every year. Land disputes (8 million per year), conflicts among neighbours (6.8 million per year) and crime (3.8 million per year) are the most common and most serious legal problems in Bangladesh.
Dr. Martin recommends for Bangladesh that user-centric, targeted and actionable legal information should be provided proactively at the level where the people encounter a problem. Linking local institutions with the formal justice institutions has great potential for enhancing justice journeys and integrating access to justice into existing social and institutional mechanisms. For the design of hybrid justice mechanisms, it is crucial to recognise that justice journeys should be free from bias. In order to thrive, justice innovation has to be encouraged and supported. After mapping access to justice from the users’ perspective, the next logical step is to invest in developing a robust system of justice innovation. Such system should include smart innovators, dedicated financing, engaged institutions and supportive policies. Most of all the building of such a system requires smart process design, clear ownership and engagement by public, private and civil society actors. Create systems that listen directly to the users of justice. To respond adequately to people’s justice needs, continuous bottom-up monitoring is needed. Monitoring of justice journeys as the users encounter them should be mainstreamed into policy-making and service delivery. Active involvement of civil society organisations, particularly in leading roles, will increase the accountability of the justice system in Bangladesh.
The event was covered by Muhammad Mahdy Hassan, Policy Analyst (Human Rights and Governance), BRAC Advocacy.