Accra, Ghana – Director of the United States Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Office Rachel Rossi joined Chairman of the Ghana Legal Aid Commission Supreme Court Justice Lord Nene Abayaateye Ofoe Amegatcher, Attorney General Honorable Godfred Yeboah Dame, and Acting Executive Director of the Ghana Legal Aid Commission Ellen A. “Sweetie” Sowa today to officially launch Ghana’s Public Defenders’ Division (PDD). The PDD will provide legal assistance and criminal defense services for Ghanaians accused of crimes that cannot otherwise afford legal representation.
In 2018, Ghana’s Parliament created the PDD under the Ghana Legal Aid Commission (LAC). With technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance & Training (OPDAT), LAC has increased representation in criminal cases in Ghana by more than 40 percent in each of the last two years. Last month, the United States handed over 54 laptops funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement to LAC to assist in its mission.
“We are grateful for the support of our High Court Justices for appointing us in appropriate cases as the law requires,” said PDD Acting Director Nelson Kporha. “We also thank our American partners both for promoting the capacity of the Public Defenders’ Division to represent qualified accused in general, and for helping us to officially launch the PDD in particular.”
Today’s launch is a crucial next step in ensuring access to justice for all Ghanaians. The PDD will provide legal defense to indigent and otherwise needy defendants in serious criminal cases in Ghana.
The U.S. Government supports access to justice across Ghana. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Government has trained more than 1,500 staff from government agencies to use Ghana’s case tracking system, which provides updated information on pending cases. USAID has also helped increase public awareness of legal aid and Alternative Dispute Resolution services, reaching more than five million citizens, especially poor and indigent people, in targeted districts.
With continued support from the U.S. Department of Justice, through the U.S. Embassy, the PDD will continue to seek annual increases in the number of criminal representations of those who cannot afford private counsel, giving effect to the mandates of the 2018 Legal Aid Commission Act.
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Established in 1991, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance & Training (OPDAT) promotes the rule of law and regard for human rights by supporting professional and accountable institutions in the justice sector, including law enforcement, prosecutors, the judiciary, and public defenders. Learn more about OPDAT’s capacity building efforts around the world at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-opdat
The U.S. Department of Justice reestablished the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) as a standalone agency in October 2021 to address the access-to-justice crisis in criminal and civil justice systems. ATJ’s mission is to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status.