Legal aid support

The concept of legal aid should be broadly defined to cover not only legal representation before the courts but also legal advice, assistance and representation for persons arrested, detained or imprisoned, suspected, charged with or accused of a criminal offence and who are poor or vulnerable for any other reason. Legal aid is a fundamental human rights and an element of a fair and effective criminal justice system that is based on rule of law. It is also essential for the enjoyment of other human rights, including the right to a fair trial, particularly for the poorest who cannot afford legal services. Increased access to legal aid services may, among other things, prevent ill-treatment in police stations, reduce prison overcrowding and reduce wrongful convictions.
 
National Conference On "Legal Aid" Co-Organized by Ministry of Justice and The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia with Support from UNICEF and UN-OHCHR Cambodia
The legal aid situation in Cambodia is in critical need of improvement. Legal aid is currently mainly provided by NGOs funded by international donors. The Legal Aid Department (LAD) of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) also works to provide legal aid to the poor. However, the budget that the Government provides to the BAKC for this purpose is insufficient to meet the needs of the poor. The small and decreasing number of legal aid lawyers is also one major challenge – in several provinces of Cambodia, there isn't a single legal aid lawyer working in the province. On the number and location of legal aid lawyers in Cambodia updated by OHCHR-Cambodia as of November 2013, click here .

In recent years, the issue of legal aid has been highlighted in several reports and studies which provide detailed information on the situation of legal aid in Cambodia and suggest a number of steps and recommendations to improve the provision of legal aid system in Cambodia. They are:

  1. A survey of legal aid in Cambodia conducted by the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform and the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) in 2006 English | Khmer;
  2. A study of legal aid services in Cambodia conducted by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) in 2010 English | Khmer; and
  3. An options paper prepared by the Danish Agency for International Development (DANIDA) for the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform in 2011 English | Khmer.

At the global level, on 20 December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems to emphasize the primary duty and responsibility of the State to provide legal aid and to allocate the necessary human and financial resources to the legal aid system. Particularly, it contains useful and practical guidance to States in establishing effective and sustainable national legal aid systems. For the text of UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, click here in, English | Khmer.
The UN human rights mechanisms have also recently focused their attention on legal aid. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mrs. Gabriela Knaul, has devoted her last thematic report to the Human Rights Council on the issue of legal aid. Download the full text of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in English. For the relevant extracts of the report in Khmer click here.
When examining the situation of Cambodia, several treaty bodies have recommended that Cambodia establish a national legal aid system in line with the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid. See for instance CEDAW concluding observations on the 4th and 5th periodic report of Cambodia.