The COVID-19 crisis poses huge challenges to human rights and the rule of law. The pandemic also affects lawyers all around the world in their daily professional activities, which causes a great impact on the legal profession. Lawyers for Lawyers has created a COVID-19 series to provide insight into the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on lawyers all around the world. One of the articles in the COVID-19 series covers the insights shared Justus Ijeoma, a Nigerian human rights lawyer and the executive director of the International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF).
Door: Lawyers for Lawyers
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that came upon the world unanticipated, and so it caught up with many unprepared and scampering for what could be an appropriate response to the situation. That, I think, is the situation with almost all the sectors of human endeavors in Africa. We are not insulated from that unpleasant scenario.”
Impact on the work of lawyers
“The pandemic has impacted heavily on our work in many ways. Take, for example, the issue of ‘working from home’. This is almost completely alien to us here, but I know it’s been a normal and common practice in other places like the Netherlands, even long before the pandemic.
You can imagine, for a legal system where even the filing of court processes must be done in person and where court proceedings have always been done in person, for such a system to observe a total lockdown that is foisted on it abruptly, makes our work as lawyers very difficult.
For us, who often engage with police officers and the authorities in the course of intervening for victims of human rights violations, the e-contacts of such officials are shrouded in high secrecy. Engagements have to be done by contact in person or by writing letters, which again must be delivered physically, either personally or by currier. Such engagements are heavily impacted in an era of total lockdown.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that many of the beneficiaries of our work are the poor and vulnerable, who most times do not have access to the internet. The reports such people bring to us is by physical means or at best by phone calls.”
More stories from the COVID-19 series are available on the Lawyers for Lawyers website: www.lawyersforlawyers.org