21 April 2009

Cameroon: Law on Legal Aid Provisions

The law outlines conditions for obtaining legal aid, the bodies to examine applications, filling procedures and conditions of withdrawal. The Head of State, Paul Biya, last April 14 enacted a new law organising the acquisition, granting and withdrawal of legal aid in Cameroon. The law which repeals that of 9 November 1976 lays down conditions for obtaining legal aid; designates competent bodies to examine applications, the effects of legal aid as well as the conditions for the withdrawal of legal aid.

As concerns the obtaining of legal aid, the law states that legal aid shall be granted on application to those whose resources are inadequate to have their rights enforced by a court or to follow up the enforcement of any writ or process of execution previously obtained without such legal aid.

As regards the designation of competent bodies to examine applications for legal aid, legal aid commissions shall be set up in courts of first instance, high courts, military tribunals, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court.

As concerns the condition for the acquisition of legal aid, applications for legal aid shall be done in writing or orally to the secretary of the legal aid commission. The secretary shall without delay forward the file to the chairperson of that legal aid commission and inadmissibility shall be pronounced by order of the chairperson of the commission after consultation with the legal department.

Legal aid as stipulated by the law shall have two effects; effects regarding proceedings and effects regarding costs. Concerning the effects on proceedings, the commission may limit legal aid to procedures or writs of execution or the nature of proceedings or writs of execution to which legal aid is applied.

As regards effects on costs, persons receiving legal aid shall be exempted from full or partial payment of sums due to the treasury for stamp duty, registration and registry fees, and from any deposit except for the fee provided for in case of appeal.

On the conditions for the withdrawal of legal aid, the law states that legal aid may be withdrawn in the event that the person who has received legal aid acquires resources deemed sufficient or where a person receiving legal aid, is found to have influenced the decision of the commission through a false declaration. Such a withdrawal may be on the request of the legal department or the opposing party. It may also be decided by the commission which granted it, of its own motion.

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