Earlier this week, a report on the situation of access to justice in the context of the pandemic from the perspective of organizations and individuals who interact with judicial services in Latin America was published by ACIJ, Argentina in partnership with entities such as JSCA, DeJusticia, FIMA, LABÁ, the Legal Empowerment Network, the Due Process of Law Foundation and Justice for All.

The report analyzes the main measures taken by judiciaries in the context of the pandemic and the extent to which these entities adjusted and/or expanded their capacity to respond to the additional demands generated by the pandemic. It also addresses the developments that occurred in other branches of government in this context.

The authors of the report also examine how the pandemic highlighted the need to undertake or expand digital governance and justice processes and how free legal aid was provided in judicial and administrative offices.

They explain that the report was meant to offer a regional assessment of the situation of access to justice in the context of the pandemic that can shape the development of evidence-based public policies focused on this right.

A total of 42 organizations from 17 countries participated in this effort, namely Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Analysis

The report identifies patterns in the violation of rights in various countries of the region based on the data collected on the situation between March and October. For example:

-Nearly all of the countries of the region suspended or limited the functions of the judiciary. As a result, individuals do not have adequate channels for addressing their conflicts and lack of access was accentuated along with limited availability of justice services.

-Constitutional exception measures were adopted in 12 of the 17 countries analyzed, and executive branches acquired additional powers. Furthermore, the functions of the legislative branches were suspended in eight of the 17 countries.

-Legal activities were limited to “minimum service” in most of the countries, but there was no increase in the installed capacity of judiciaries to respond to the additional demand caused by COVID-19.

-The judiciaries responded to the need to generate organizational changes and innovations in a limited manner, and were perceived as ineffective in terms of resolving the conflicts generated by the pandemic.

-Processes aimed at accelerating the introduction of information and communication technologies (ICTs) have accelerated or expanded during the pandemic in the region’s judiciaries, though only seven countries adopted a differential approach in an effort to reduce the digital divide.

-The pandemic has increased barriers to access to justice for at-risk groups, and legal aid was impacted by the suspension of justice services and changes in the way in which such services are provided.

Download the executive summary here:

https://acij.org.ar/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Resumen-Ejecutivo.pdf

Download the full report here:

https://acij.org.ar/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/version-11-11-20-Informe-Encuesta-REGIONAL-situacion-de-acceso-a-la-justicia-covid-19.docx-1.pdf

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