General Legal Aid Program

LAC’s General Legal Aid Program provides legal representation free of charge to Cambodia’s indigent population wherever need arises and resources permit. Specialist projects are also housed within the program. This program has been the core of LAC’s activities since its establishment in 1995.

Program goals:

To improve the Cambodian court system and ensure justice for all parties before the courts.

Specific objectives:

  • Ensure the underprivileged have access to justice by providing quality legal aid services including advocacy, and by identifying and raising issues of access to justice for all on the national platform.
  • Promote human rights and the rule of law by training law enforcement officers and those involved in court and legal administration on legal and judicial procedures.
  • Educate the community on the law and human rights, and participate in the education and training of law students.
  • Improve the Cambodian legal system through advocacy and empowerment of the underprivileged to enable them to exercise their rights.

Main activities:

  • LAC provides free, quality legal representation and consultation to detained parties. LAC staff assesses the needs of each client and provides representation when necessary for litigation, appeals of unlawful pre-trial detention procedures, and appeals of erroneous decisions and unlawful detention conditions.
  • LAC advocates for reforms to the appeals process and court system. Given the current deficiencies in the appeals process, LAC seeks to stimulate changes to ensure that all parties have a fair opportunity to appeal decisions.
  • LAC interviews detained parties, thereby effectively uncovering unlawful detention procedures and excessive detentions that clients may otherwise suffer without the resources to challenge.
  • LAC helps unlawfully detained parties to appeal their sentences, advocating for the release of those who have been excessively detained through the relevant court procedures.
  • LAC educates the community members on their rights. By training community members and local authorities regarding the rights of parties in the judicial process, LAC better ensures that the rights of individuals are protected by fellow members of the community and are less prone to violations by local authorities.

Despite the importance of the General Legal Aid Program that provides pro bono legal support to indigent clients on criminal and civil matters, it has been incredibly difficult to raise funds to support this program. The donors perceive that it is the obligation of the government to establish funds for providing legal aid to the poor, and thus prefer not to support external projects in this regard.

Although the government has made efforts to establish a functioning legal aid system through the Ministry of Justice and the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, they have been wholly insufficient to satisfy the demand. LAC continues to seek avenues to provide legal support to those in the most vulnerable situations, such as persons with disabilities and human rights activists.

In the past, LAC also provided legal representation for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime who participated as civil parties at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.