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Local centre offers free legal aid to most vulnerable

By Maram Al Kayed - Aug 01,2018 - Last updated at Aug 01,2018

AMMAN — The Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA), a non-profit organisation, recently celebrated providing 175,000 free legal aid actions to the less fortunate on the occasion of their 10th year anniversary. 

The centre, which was founded in 2008, has provided 26,556 legal consultations and 14,432 legal representations since its foundation, according to a press release issued by the centre.

One of the beneficiaries of JCLA’s services, who preferred to remain anonymous, told her story on the centre's website, recounting, “I was living with my husband and daughters abroad, and my husband decided to travel to Jordan for vacation." 

"Once we arrived, he divorced me and refused to give us any money," she remembered, noting that a JCLA lawyer filed a case on her behalf before the Sharia court, which ordered her husband to pay her and her daughters alimony, granting them "a decent life”.

JLCA’s Executive Director Hadeel Abdelaziz told The Jordan Times on Tuesday “almost 70 per cent of our [beneficiaries] are women; this is because in our society women tend to be more vulnerable and financially dependent, thus making them unable to afford a lawyer when needed”.

The Department of Statistics estimated the number of services provided by the centre to range between 17,000 and 45,000 per year. 

In addition to legal help, JCLA’s website mentioned that, in 2017 alone, the centre implemented 10,737 awareness sessions that served 207,783 people across the Kingdom.

A study conducted by the centre showed that families who are financially challenged are more prone to clashes with the law, as 70 percent of recorded law violations were committed by individuals who come from families with a total income of less than JD500.

In her story titled “Forced to Take Matters into Our Own Hands” and published on the JCLA's website, an anonymous mother said: “My children and I were owed money by a shopkeeper whom we worked for but he did not pay us."

"We decided to get justice on our own, so we pulled his car that was parked in front of the shop to force him to give us our rightful, hard-earned money. Some people saw us and called the police. We were put in jail and accused of stealing,” she remembered.

She said she did not have enough money to hire a lawyer, but was contacted after a while by a lawyer from the justice center for legal aid.

"He defended us in front of the court of law, which decided that we were innocent of stealing and changed the charge to a lower one," the mother recounted, noting that the court decision was reduced from three years to three months in jail.

“Through our work, it is safe to say that what threatens justice the most is the feeling that it only protects the wealthy,” Maha Al Khatib, acting chairwoman of JCLA, expressed her concern in the report.

Although the constitution states that everyone has the right to an attorney, it only provides attorneys for those who face felonies that are punishable by 10 years and above, according to Abdelaziz. 

In its report, JCLA noted that 275 people were provided legal aid by the government, as opposed to 3,000 people who were offered help by local NGOs.

“There is a huge problem regarding people who are arrested and interrogated at police stations as our findings show that 99.5 per cent of them are interrogated without a lawyer. We have created a hotline that people can call if they ever find themselves in that situation,” the executive director pointed out.

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