Shortly after Mercy Hands was established in 2004 we realized that our beneficiaries (IDPs, Returnees, Refugees, and disaster affected populations) needed legal protection, in addition to their other urgent needs for food, nonfood items, and shelter. This population has extremely limited awareness of their legal rights (human, social, economic) and the legal system and the access to it, severely compromising attempts at re-integration, protection, assistance or repatriation.
Therefore, Mercy Hands in March 2005 launched the Legal Aid & Information Centre (LAIC) in cooperation with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), with the objective of providing legal aid to the returnees, IDPs, refugees, and other vulnerable groups. LAIC monitored IDP movement in Baghdad, Anbar, and Diyala governorates and provided legal assistance and information to them, Sudanese refugees in K70 camp in Rutba, and Iranian refugees in Al-Tash Camp in Diyala. The first phase of the project was implemented between March and December 2005 and total budget was $322,577.00.
Between December 2005 and February 2006, LAIC team implemented another project, funded by UNDP, titled "Human Rights and Democratic Values Civic Education for Displaced Marsh Arabs in Baghdad". Impressed by the capacity and work of LAIC team, UNHCR partnered again with Mercy Hands to implement another project, called "Monitoring for the purposes of Reintegration and Repatriation, and provision of Legal Protection and Assistance for vulnerable populations in Central and southern Iraq". This project covered a wider geographic area, including the following governorates: Baghdad, Diyala, Babil, Anbar, Salah Al-Din, and Najaf. The project was implemented between January and December 2006. The total budget was $407,676.00. The successful implementation of the project and continuous influx of IDPs led to a two years extension. The project was concluded in December 2008.
LAIC work and the accumulated experience in the fields of legal aid, advocacy, and human rights has led to the establishment of Legal Aid and Advocacy Department, as one of the Programs Departments in Mercy Hands. In 2006, Legal Aid and Advocacy Department partnered with IOM to conduct IDP Household Intentions Survey in Baghdad and Babil Governorates. The project was implemented between April and August 2006. Total budget was $35,939.70. Also, in 2011, Legal Aid and Advocacy Department partnered with UNIFEM/ UNWOMEN to conduct workshops in Salah Al Din Governorate to raise awareness about women issues. Due to new waves of displacement, in September 2011, Mercy Hands partnered with USAID - Access to Justice Program to implement a project similar to the original LAIC, also called LAIC, with similar objective and that is to provide legal awareness and assistance to IDPs and Returnees in Baghdad and Babil Governorates. The project was implemented in four phases, and it ended in September 2014.
In October 2015, Mercy Hands received a grant from Tetra tech - DPK to extend the work of LAIC in Babil Governorate. See LAIC in Babil October summary report.
A sample of brochures we distribute on IDPs to advertise for LAIC free legal services: