Access to Justice

A note from the team leader on access to justice. 

Fair, efficient, humane and accountable justice systems provide a cornerstone in a society based on human rights and the rule of law.

Throughout our history and together with partner institutions all over the world, we have contributed significantly to promote the development of justice systems providing access to justice for all and treating everybody in contact with its institutions with respect for their human rights and freedoms.

We have worked directly with a vast number of regional and national court systems, prosecuting authorities, police organisations, prison services and professional training institutions. We have also contributed to develop the capacity of National Human Rights Institutions, to more effectively promote and protect human rights.

Read more about our work with NHRI's

justice Results

  • Strengthened operational and human rights capacity of over 25 National Human Rights Institutions in Africa and Asia to promote and protect human rights, by providing staff training, infrastructural support and advice.
  • The implementation of a nation-wide prison auditing system based upon the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR) in Indonesia
  • Improved knowledge and skills regarding human rights and methodologies for teaching human rights and criminal justice among National Prosecutor colleges in China
  • The development and implementation of the first compulsory and credited human rights course for future prosecutors and judges in Cambodia, in cooperation with the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions
  • Strengthened capacity of Human Rights Officers at each level of the Kenyan correctional system to conduct human rights assessments, deliver relevant training and advise on compliance with international standards
  • Strengthened human rights knowledge and skills with judges of the East African Court of Justice, and improved awareness of and information on the Court’s cases and proceedings with regional stakeholders
  • Publication of the first book on Arab Jurisprudence in the Application of International Conventions on Women’s Rights

Nearly all of the work we do has an aspect of ensuring that justice is fair and efficient and today we contribute to ensure that:

  • justice sector institutions, including courts, prosecuting authorities and law enforcement agencies are increasingly responsive to international human rights standards in their respective field of operation
  • access to justice and protection of human rights are enhanced through more effective National Human Rights Institutions
  • vulnerable and marginalised groups under any form of detention, imprisonment or non-custodial measures are increasingly treated in line with international standards and norms on human rights
  • human rights education for present and future generations of justice sector officials is improved and increased, through strengthened academic and professional training institutions

Learn more about how we work with access to justice in specific regions and countries.

Read more

The Situation

Fair, efficient, humane and accountable justice systems that provide access to justice for all and treat persons in conflict with the law, victims, and others in contact with its institutions and mechanisms, with dignity and respect for their fundamental rights and freedoms provides a cornerstone in a society based on human rights and the rule of law.

It plays an important part in ensuring a just, peaceful and safe democratic society. Justice systems based on human rights and the rule of law are crucial in order to safeguard that:

societies are inclusive and non-discriminatory

vulnerable groups such as refugees, migrants and victims of trafficking are provided with necessary protection

remedies are available to counter potential effects of economic globalisation, such as infringements in labour rights and environmental hazards

Critically, it can be argued that procedures and practices for fair, efficient, humane and accountable justice significantly determine the equal enjoyment of all human rights.

There is no lack of international instruments addressing the obligation of justice sector institutions to provide for access to justice and uphold the respect for human rights in exercising their duties.

However, throughout the world, justice sector institutions continue to be frequent sources of human rights violations. We experience and read daily about inefficient, corrupt or politically controlled court systems offering impunity for human rights atrocities committed by law enforcement agencies.

We hear about accused persons who are tortured in police cells, men, women and children who are kept under inhumane conditions without access to adequate food and healthcare, persons who are denied a proper defence in a criminal case just because they cannot afford a lawyer and national human rights institutions that cannot provide an effective remedy due to lack of independence or shortage of resources and capacity.

At the international level we also continue to experience underresourced international and regional mechanisms for the protection of human rights as we also see a decline in the support for international criminal justice, with the most prominent example being the future of the international criminal court which is at stake.

Looking at the above, the challenge today is not standard setting, but how to give effect to the existing international and regional standards. In order to do this, we need to strengthen relevant international, regional and national systems, structures and mechanisms to ensure fair efficient, humane and accountable justice delivery.

Over the last 25 years, we've provided support to strengthening the capacity of justice systems all over the world. Given the changing environment for human rights in the world today, where human rights are increasingly challenged in many countries, it has become critical for the Institute to continuously re-assess with whom we are working, where we are working and how we are working with the justice sector in order to continue to make a significant contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.

This is an important ongoing process, in which partner countries, partner institutions and methods will be assessed regularly.

Josh Ounsted

Josh Ounsted

Leader of Access to Justice Thematic Area

Phone: +46 46 222 12 00

Josh is Head of the Thematic Area ‘Access to Justice’.

He previously served as the Director of the RWI Regional Office in Nairobi and before that as Director of the Institute’s Office in Jakarta. Prior to working for RWI, he worked for organisations including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights.

Read more: Our work with NHRI’s


The Access to Justice team

Mikael Johansson

Mikael Johansson

Director of Zimbabwe Programme and Harare Office / Senior Policy Adviser, Anti-Corruption and Human Rights

Phone: + 263 77 500 4361
Cell phone: + 46 70 212 7165 /whatsapp

Mikael Johansson holds a Master of Laws from the Faculty of Law at Lund University, with specialisation in international human rights law and international humanitarian law. He has been with the Institute since 1991 and has held several positions within the department for international programmes, including head of programmes, and has also functioned as the Institute’s advisor on Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance. He is currently the director of the Institute´s Zimbabwe Programme and Harare Office, and the Institute’s Senior Policy Adviser on Anti-Corruption and Human Rights. From September 2004 to August 2006 Mikael worked at the Embassy of Sweden in Harare, as the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency’s (Sida), Regional Adviser for Democracy and Human Rights for Southern Africa.

Mikael’s work experience covers management of institutional and human rights capacity development programmes and strategic planning and policy development related to development cooperation and human rights, including results based management and application of human rights based approaches to development. He has vast experience in the fields of administration of justice, rule of law and anti-corruption. He is the current coordinator of the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme Network of Institutes and he is since 2011 member of the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law.

Lyal S. Sunga

Lyal S. Sunga

Affiliated Professor


Lyal S. Sunga, is an Affiliated Professor at RWI, Visiting Professor at the American University of Rome, Italy, Visiting Professor at Strathmore University Law School in Nairobi, Kenya and RWI’s Visiting Professor at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. He is a former Head of the ‘Rule of Law’ programme at The Hague Institute for Global Justice in  Netherlands and former Special Advisor on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the International Development Law Organization in Rome, Italy.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Carleton), Bachelor of Laws (Osgoode Hall Law School), Master of Laws in International Human Rights Law (Essex) and PhD in International Law (The Graduate Institute of International Studies). An internationally recognized specialist in international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law, Sunga has given presentations, university courses, lectures, training and conducted human rights technical assistance in some 55 countries.

From 1994-2001, he was Human Rights Officer at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva in which capacity he investigated facts and responsibilities relating to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda for the UN Security Council’s Commission of Experts on Rwanda, and he then backstopped the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda for several years before taking up the role of Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Team in the Special Procedures Branch. In 1998, he served as OHCHR’s representative to the Rome Conference on the Establishment of a Permanent International Criminal Court. He has dealt with mandates on human rights defenders, counter-terrorism and human rights, human rights and the administration of criminal justice, and the situation in Iran among other countries.

In 2000, he was Secretary of the Asian regional preparatory conference to the World Conference on Racism, held in Teheran. In 2007, he served as Coordinator for the UN Human Rights Council’s Group of Experts on Darfur. More recently, he has been working closely with OHCHR’s National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section as expert consultant. Over the last 25 years, he has worked or consulted with the UN Security Council, UNOHCHR, UNDP, UNDEF, UNESCO, UNU, UNHCR, UNITAR, UNODC, the ILO, EU, IDLO, Swiss Development Cooperation, as well as with National Human Rights Commissions in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, the Russian Federation and Uganda.


From 2001 to 2005, Sunga was Associate Professor and Director of the Masters of Laws in Human Rights, Hong Kong Faculty of Law, China, and he subsequently taught international human rights and other law courses at the Lund Faculty of Law in Sweden, in Azerbaijan for the Young Lawyers’ Union, at Peking University Law School, at Padjadjaran University Faculty of Law in Bandung, at the University of Geneva Faculty of Law, the University of Helsinki Faculty of Law, and at Carleton University (Ottawa) and McGill University (Montreal).

He is the author of Individual Responsibility in International for Serious Human Rights Violations (1992) and The Emerging System of International Criminal Law: Developments in Codification and Implementation (1997), and of some 40 book sections and law journal articles on such issues as the use of force in international relations, humanitarian intervention, truth and national reconciliation, human security, techniques of human rights monitoring, investigation and reporting, the Geneva Conventions, the ICTY, ICTR and ICC. For more information, downloadable publications and media appearances, visit his website.

Damaris Seina

Damaris Seina

Programme Officer

Phone: +254 20 367 3017

Regional Africa Programme. Focal Point: African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), East African Community (EAC)

Damaris has worked at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute since 2015 as the Kenya Programme Officer and is responsible for planning, implementation and follow-up of cooperation projects in Kenya so as to achieve expected results.

Karol Nowak

Karol Nowak

Doctor of Laws, associate prof. Director of the Master´s Programme in International Human Rights Law

Phone: + 46 46 222 12 35

Karol is currently working as an associate professor of law at Lund University in Sweden and is the Director of the university’s master’s program in international human rights law.

Prior to his current positions, Karol worked as a researcher for RWI and as a lecturer for Gothenburg University focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on matters concerning the right to a fair trial.

Karol also has wide-ranging experience of regulatory impact assessment in the field of human rights law, procedural law and constitutional law. He has been a partner in two FP-7 funded projects, DETECTER and SURVEILLE and has worked extensively on various projects in multiple countries.

Brian Burdekin

Brian Burdekin

Affiliated Professor


Brian Burdekin is currently Visiting Professor at the Institute, teaches in the post-graduate programme at Melbourne University Law School, and is International Adviser to a number of National Human Rights Institutions in Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. From 1995 to 2003, he was Special Adviser on National Institutions to the first three United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights. Prior to taking up his appointment with the United Nations, Professor Burdekin was, from 1986 to 1994, the Federal Human Rights Commissioner of Australia. In 1995 Professor Burdekin was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to human rights, both in Australia and in other countries.