A major impediment to effective implementation of criminal justice reform in Egypt is the public’s lack of access to legal information. In an effort to increase transparency and public confidence in the court systems, citizens will now have access to case files and related materials through newly established information desks.
The Egyptian Prosecutors General Office, with the support of USAID, has opened public information desks in four of its offices throughout Alexandria. The aim of these desks is to increase citizen access to legal information, enabling citizens to be better informed participants in the justice system. Additionally, as a result of previous work completed on USAID’s Administration of Criminal Justice Project
, the desks have been electronically linked to the office’s fully automated case management system. Access to the case management system at the information desks is additional support provided to defense attorneys that provides a more direct way of obtaining copies of materials from their clients’ case files that are critical to developing an effective defense of their clients.
Overall, the desks provide a variety of support to the public, including a visual display on an LCD screen that demonstrates how citizens can obtain official documents, forms for requesting services from public prosecutors offices, and brochures informing citizens about their legal rights in relation to their access of justice and the role of the public prosecution in criminal cases. Additionally, a trained service clerk is on hand for additional support.
With more than 15,000 requests in the first six weeks of operation, the information desks were well on their way to promoting a level of transparency between the courts and the public, as well as increasing the citizens’ understanding and access to the legal process.