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Public defenders programme expanding legal aid provision

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BAKC president Ly Chantola (centre) attends a virtual workshop on laywer’s role on January 14. BAKC

Public defenders programme expanding legal aid provision

In 2021, the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s (BAKC) public defenders programme assigned lawyers to work on 5,182 cases involving 8,425 impoverished people. Of the total, there were 1,453 juvenile cases.

BAKC spokesman An Sovothanea told The Post on January 17 that the bar has been providing legal services to the financially vulnerable throughout the pandemic.

He said there are currently 378 volunteer lawyers at BAKC who use financial support from the government to take on the cases of poor defendants across the country.

He said they used Telegram to send digital documents and then followed up with hard copies. All of the management of the data related to the programme is backed up digitally. The data is jointly used by the municipal, provincial and regional appeal courts as well as the public defender’s office at BAKC. Recently, BAKC also received approval from the Supreme Court to open an office there.

“The BAKC has three mechanisms or projects that provide legal aid to poor people in Cambodia. The first project is the legal aid provided by the government. This project provided legal aid to over 8,000 people, including 575 women and 1,968 juveniles last year,” he said.

Sovanthanea said: “The second project is through a memorandum of understanding signed with the Cambodian National Consultation for Women (CNCW) through which the law defends women and juvenile involved in violent cases. They acted for 110 defendants, including 69 women.”

“The third mechanism, he said, was the free legal service for the poor initiated by BAKC president Ly Chantola. Through this mechanism, voluntary lawyers had defended 42 cases,” he added.

He said that last year the government provided support totalling two billion riel (around $500,000) for the programme. For this year, the government has increased this to a total of 2.6 billion riel.

Through the agreement, the BAKC lawyers can receive cases from judicial police, the court, the women’s affairs department and ministry and the CNCW – or through direct complaints from victims who take their cases to the BAKC.

Cases involving women and juvenile girls are mostly related to domestic or sexual violence or divorces arising from similar issues, he added.

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