IBJ’s Cambodia Program Expands Significantly While Moving Forward in 2010
In recent months IBJ has increased the scope of its activities in Cambodia and is now reaching more people than ever before. IBJ opened a new Defender Resource Center (DRC) in the Prey Veng Province in the fall, which now enables us to provide direct legal representation to a significantly increased number of individuals. Altogether IBJ’s DRC’s now cover Phnom Penh, Takeo, Pursat, Prey Veng, Kampot, Kampong Chhnang, and Svay Rieng, penetrating rural areas and provinces and providing direct access to lawyers with the power to defend the accused. In the past few months, IBJ has seen Cambodia move closer towards the implementation of a state-sponsored legal aid system. In fact, Judges from the Provincial Court in Pursat have started referring cases directly to IBJ lawyers. This direct relationship between the Court and IBJ Office demonstrates a model for a successfully functioning state-sponsored legal aid system, illustrating a shift and movement in the consciousness of public officials as it pertains to legal aid, at a grass-roots level. Per our calculation as of the end of April, IBJ lawyers have handled a total of 574 cases.
In the past few months we have conducted a variety of successful events, including a Semi-Annual meeting held in the Takeo Province on March 30, 2010, which was attended by members of numerous non-governmental organizations, police officials, and university students. The goal of this meeting was to bring together various members of civil society, in an effort to raise awareness regarding issues affecting the criminal justice system throughout Cambodia. Topics discussed during the meeting were the state of legal aid throughout the Takeo Province, the prevalence of torture, and the mortality rate among youths. The meeting was a great success, widely attended by members of the community, and served the purpose of raising consciousness within the community as it pertains to the rights of the accused.
Another pillar of IBJ’s work in Cambodia consists of conducting trainings for lawyers, public officials, and members of the legal community. IBJ conducted a three-day training event for Cambodian lawyers from April 27, 2010 – April 29,2010, in conjunction with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The trainings were held at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, and the main topic discussed was the recently passed 2009 Criminal Code. There was a significant interest in this event, as there were 72 attendees the first day, 79 people the second day, and 45 attendees the third day. There was an overwhelming demand for the training, and attendees referenced their appreciation for IBJ’s hosting of the event.
IBJ also continues hosting Rights Awareness Campaigns and Events in an effort to inform citizens of their rights, and to encourage them to demand them in case of an arrest or judicial accusation. On April 7, 2010 Ouk Vandeth participated in a radio talk show on the Sarika radio station, in conjunction with Ms. Ong Sileth from Legal Aid Cambodia. The purpose of the program was to explain the difference between the classifications of suspected persons, charged persons, and accused persons – and to further explain and elaborate upon the rights of charged persons. Differentiating between these different stages in criminal proceedings and characterizing the rights associated with each status, helped individuals to gain an increased understanding of their legal rights depending upon their status. Again, the radio program proved to be a success and reached thousands of listeners throughout the nation.
In the coming months IBJ will continue to expand its network throughout Cambodia and solidify its presence as a force for positive change. IBJ is well-positioned to build upon what it has achieved this year and continues to play a greater role in achieving justice for all in Cambodia. Indeed, the organization remains focused on the day where the basic legal rights of every man, woman and child are respected in all instances of arrest or judicial accusation.
First of all, we would like to thank you all for your support of IBJ’s Cambodia Country Program. With your help, we have been able to continue and expand our work in Cambodia. Through our work in Cambodia, we're able to assist more and more indigent accused, providing them with legal assistance as well as rights awareness. Your support is vital to the continued success of our Cambodia program!
Background Information on IBJ’s Cambodia Program:
The Cambodia Program at IBJ is one of the oldest long-standing Programs within the organization. Following the atrocities perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge regime, IBJ has worked since 2001 to rebuild the criminal justice system and to provide support for the community. The Program seeks to facilitate the long-term development of a system that embraces accessible legal aid for all citizens throughout the entire nation. Providing legal aid services to the Accused and increasing the presence of legal services throughout the country, particularly in rural areas, will help to increase citizen’s access to justice. Access to legal aid services will also significantly decrease the percentage of the Accused who remain in prison without legal representation and who are vulnerable to the possibility of torture.
The Program directly defends torture victims and seeks to reduce the prevalence of torture by police, prison officials, and judges. The Program also seeks to provide direct legal representation to underrepresented members of society, including women, minorities, and those particularly situated in rural areas. The Program also seeks to raise awareness among citizens and to inform them of their legal rights in the event of an arrest or accusation through conducting Street Law and Rights Awareness Campaigns. Another core function of the Program is to conduct trainings for lawyers, judges, and other members of the legal profession, on effective defense strategies and techniques. These trainings also cover the implementation of the new Cambodian Criminal Procedure Code adopted in August of 2007, in an effort to ensure that attorneys are aware of the changes and to facilitate a smooth transition to compliance with the new regulations. Finally, the Program fosters Roundtable discussions bringing together key members of the community to engage in substantive dialogues regarding the protection of legal rights and human rights, and to encourage the enhancement of the criminal justice system.
Since you last heard from us, IBJ’s Cambodia Program, lead by IBJ Fellow Ouk Vandeth, has been making great progress.
Thank you again for all your support!