The Virtual Human Rights Lawyer - Namibia Pilot

PILPG Netherlands, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) from Namibia, and Intercidadania from Brazil, are working together on the design and development of the ‘Virtual Human Rights Lawyer’ (VHRL). This tool will be the outcome of an innovative project that combines several disciplines and areas of knowledge, such as IT, international and Namibian law and communications to support victims of human rights violations.

The VHRL is a tool that aims to provide victims of human rights violations with a platform to inquire which judicial and non-judicial mechanisms are available in their situation. The VHRL will take the form of a ‘chatbot’ based on specific decision trees that guide the user from his or her legal issue to the appropriate mechanism.

Jasmijn de Zeeuw

Jasmijn de Zeeuw

The pilot version of the chatbot will be designed for Namibia in cooperation with the Legal Assistance Centre in Windhoek, Namibia. Jasmijn de Zeeuw, a senior research associate at PILPG Netherlands, worked as a legal intern at the LAC for the past six months and initiated the partnership. She recently gave a seminar to the PILPG team on the background of the organization and the advantages of doing the pilot in Namibia.

The LAC was founded in 1988 and is the largest NGO working on the protection of human rights in Namibia. The organization works on public interest cases, particularly in the area of human rights, political and civil rights, but also cultural, economic and social rights. Among the most addressed issues are discrimination and violations of land rights. The organization works for example with the San people in respect to their ancestral land rights.

Next to being an exciting, young, and dynamic country, Namibia also presents a good pilot project. Namibia has the size of Spain and France combined but only 2.6 million inhabitants, thus a very low population density. Having been a former colony of Germany and South Africa, the inhabitants experience strong inequalities. The country’s GINI coefficient is 59.1 with a disproportionately wealthy white elite.

For the problems arising from these inequalities, and other human rights violations experienced by Namibians, the VHRL aims to provide easy and accessible support for the victims. About 45% of the population owns a mobile phone and Namibia’s mobile phone network coverage amounts to 95%, therefore the VHRL can be used by a substantive part of the population.

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