From 1975-1979, Cambodia’s legal system was completely destroyed.
Prosecutors, legislators, lawyers and judges were executed by the Khmer Rouge or perished as a result of starvation, disease or forced labor. Law books were burned and courthouses were converted to slaughterhouses. By the time the Vietnamese-backed regime was proclaimed in January 1979, only a handful of legal personnel were known to remain in the country. As a result of the deaths and departures of Cambodia’s legal professionals, the country currently faces a severe shortage of lawyers and trained professionals that can provide legal services to the indigent.
Recognizing this need, LAC was launched as a Khmer-run initiative to provide legal services for the poor. In 1994, international non-governmental organizations began to train legal defenders to represent imprisoned Cambodians who could not afford to pay for legal services. These trained defenders provided the first public defender service in over two decades.
In December 1995, LAC opened its offices to provide professional legal services for the poor in both civil and criminal matters through its main office in the capital Phnom Penh and through its eight permanent provincial offices. In 1996, LAC staff handled over 690 criminal and civil cases. In 2000, LAC’s fourth full year in existence, LAC lawyers and staff handled close to 2,500 cases and its caseload and resources continue to grow. For more recent statistics, please see our Annual Reports.