A lawyer at the Paris bar and former lobbyist, Gaëlle Pasquier de Solan joined ASF France in 2015 to put her skills at work in the protection of individual rights and freedoms. A volunteer expert for our project in Cameroon, she went on a mission from June 19 to 26 in Bafoussam and Douala to facilitate roundtable discussions on access to justice and alternative sentences for people deprived of their liberty, and to meet with project partners.
What has your experience with the RECAJUD project brought you?
The project aims to strengthen the capacities of Cameroonian civil society for access to justice for people in detention, and has two main axes: Promotion of the rights of detainees and management of the most emblematic cases (no detention warrant, length of pre-trial detention expired, discriminated people, etc.) - Promotion of the effective exercise of alternative sentences for the cases in question. I went to the field to organize two round tables with our local counterparts and to meet with our partners and donors.
The roundtables focused on the development of alternatives to prison and the non-renewal of pre-trial detention. The entire penal chain was represented, which gave rise to rich exchanges and sharing of experience both among the participants in the round tables and with us, ASF France volunteer experts. This was as much a professional benefit to me as a personal one. On the one hand, because we are confronted with ways of practicing that are mutually influential, and on the other hand, because we meet counterparts who do not face the same challenges as we do in their practices, which reminds us how important it is, when we have the capacity, to mobilize our skills in the service of people.
Just as the roundtables, the institutional meetings challenged and inspired me, especially thanks to people whose commitments are full and complete, and encouraged me to continue this personal and professional investment by becoming aware of the significant part that it represents in this group mobilized in the service of human rights.
What impact do you think RECAJUD has had at the local level?
In my opinion, it is already possible to identify several impacts of the RECAJUD project on the field. First of all, by the mobilization of actors who have rarely been called upon together. Their very concrete interactions have notably allowed committed magistrates to enlighten their colleagues and partners on the room for manoeuvre that Cameroonian law already allows, in order to favour the development of decisions applying alternative sentences. Also, court clerks encouraged our fellow lawyers by bringing up some firm decisions concerning the control of the provisional detentions pronounced. Or again, university professors alongside representatives of the administration or civil society organizations were able to reflect - by confronting their expertise with these actors of the penal chain - on recommendations to reinforce, orient and encourage the development of alternative sentences and limit the renewal of pre-trial detention. The project taken as a whole, which also led to numerous consultations and support for prisoners' lawyers, has been facilitated by media coverage.
The first impacts are therefore positive since they have encouraged the actors of the penal chain to mobilize together, and have oriented a recommended practice for both the participants and the public decision-makers who benefit from a field feedback in order to co-construct an efficient public policy.
However, the project is so ambitious that its impact is still too limited and requires deployment throughout Cameroon, so that the first encouraging feedback can become widespread and efficient practices. In my opinion, this is the condition for the RECAJUD project to have effectively strengthened the capacities of Cameroonian civil society for access to justice for people in detention.