Informal Justice Court

Location: Ikoyi prison, Lagos, Nigeria (+ online)
From april 2021
Part of: See You in The Hague

Prisoners build a practice court in the largest prison of Lagos (Nigeria)

Every year, an estimated 15 million people worldwide are incarcerated in prisons for short or longer periods of time without seeing a judge or receiving legal assistance. This is also a major problem in Nigeria. In Ikoyi prison, the largest prison in the fast-growing metropolis of Lagos, 90 percent of the prisoners sit in limbo, with no prospect of a speedy trial, with dire consequences for themselves, their families and the prison, which is overcrowded.

Working closely with Nigerian scientists, artists, theater makers, NGOs, lawyers and awaiting trial prisoners, Aardschap Foundation (Dr. Joost van Onna and Melle Smets) is building a practice court in Ikoyi: the Informal Justice Court. After a 3-year preparation, awaiting trial prisoners will prepare their criminal case with the help of pro bono lawyers and theater makers. The concept of the moot court in prison also provides an opportunity to explore how the informal court can benefit prisoners worldwide to empower themselves. The stories of the participating prisoners will be turned into a theater play, which will first be performed in Ikoyi prison and then will travel across the country to raise awareness among the general public and policy makers about the issue of unnecessary and prolonged pre-trial detention.
On this website you read more about the background and follow the progress of the project.

The Informal Justice Court is a collaboration between Aardschap Foundation, the Public Interest Law Partnership (PILP) and Lagos State University (LASU).

The project is supported by Stroom Den Haag, the African Artists' Foundation (Lagos), The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law, Alliance Francaise Lagos, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Nigerian Correctional Services & VU University.

The project is financially supported by the Pauwhof Fund, Creative Industry Fund NL, Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law and the Dutch Embassy in Nigeria (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

Informal Justice Court
photo: drawing: Melle Smets