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Pandemic prompts innovation by Kenya's justice sector 

Nairobi, 6 May 2020 - With Kenya’s justice sector determined to innovate in delivering vital services safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is fast-tracking its technical assistance for key criminal justice institutions together with the European Union. 

The immediate support includes providing computer equipment to enable wide participation in virtual court proceedings, refresher training for police officers on human rights approaches to crowd control and public order management, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline justice sector officials.

This assistance is through the largest criminal justice partnership in Sub-Saharan Africa – the KSh 4.2 billion Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD), funded by the European Union.

During a ceremony today at the Supreme Court in Nairobi, 38 laptops were handed over by European Union Ambassador Mr. Simon Mordue and UNODC Regional Representative, Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, to the Chair of the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), Chief Justice Hon. David Maraga.

“This crisis is unfolding now, so I’m pleased we’re able to deliver this first consignment of laptops, with more equipment on the way. The aim is to turn the pandemic into an opportunity to pilot new ways of working digitally which can be maintained after the crisis with support through PLEAD, albeit still with the possibility for human interaction,” Ambassador Mordue said.

With the prospect of having their matters heard and finalized despite the crisis, parties are embracing online hearings like never before in Kenya, turning to remote participation from various locations, including prisons.

The laptops are for immediate use by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (5), the Judiciary (5), Kenya Prisons Service (18), National Police Service (5) and Probation and Aftercare Service (5).

New to PLEAD, the emergency COVID-19 assistance is being extended to the Prisons Service and National Police Service, given the unique circumstances and their NCAJ membership.

In commending NCAJ for its leadership, Dr. de Andrés said the justice sector was arguably the fastest acting, most forward-thinking sector in Kenya in terms of seizing this opportunity to work differently, individually and collectively.

“As UNODC looks to the future with our partners, one of the positives emerging from the pandemic I believe will be improved efficiency in the country’s justice system through technology, and this is something we are committed to supporting,” Dr. de Andrés said.

As the crisis unfolded, UNODC received numerous requests for assistance from criminal justice actors.

Upscaled UNODC support for the NCAJ Secretariat includes strengthening their response coordination mechanisms and achieving a consistent approach to communicating the sector’s COVID-19 measures.

UNODC-supported training will continue to promote active case management and use of diversion and other alternatives to imprisonment to decongest the prisons, regarded as high-risk areas for virus outbreaks.

UNODC is arranging online and telephone counselling for justice officials who need psycho-social support.

See also remarks by Dr. de Andrés at today's ceremony and fact sheet.

The PLEAD partnership is improving the delivery of justice services and use of alternatives to imprisonment.

Media contacts

Beatrice Hongo, Delegation of the European Union to Kenya:        

Julie Marks, UNODC: