Professional development for lawyers is vital to enhance legal advocacy and promote the development of the rule of law in post-conflict nations such as Cambodia. Today, only a small number of lawyers provide free of charge legal aid services to Cambodians in need of legal assistance.
On 31 May, Destination Justice led a hands-on, interactive training workshop for Cambodian legal aid lawyers on Defence Techniques to Assist Victims of Human Rights and Political Abuses with the support of the East West Management Institute (EWMI) and USAID.
The training responded directly to surveys initiated by Destination Justice that asked legal aid lawyers where they need additional support to develop their professional skills and respond to human rights abuses.
Focusing on issues of pre-trial detention and the use of evidence in court, lawyers participated in activities designed to encourage strong legal reasoning in written and oral arguments.
Destination Justice facilitators introduced lawyers to the recently published Annotated Cambodian Code of Criminal Procedure. The Annotated Code is the first of its kind in Cambodia and is part of the ECCC legacy program, which seeks to ensure the Court’s activities and decisions leave a positive impact on the development of jurisprudence and adherence to fair trial rights in domestic Courts.
Lawyers delivered mock written and oral advocacy submissions based on fictional problems. Acting as judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers, the participants were given the tools to develop and submit arguments drawing on international and domestic constitutional human rights obligations when they apply for bail on behalf of clients and challenging the admissibility of a defendant’s confession which was obtained by police during interrogation.
The training also highlighted the existence of different complaint and appeal mechanisms both in Cambodia and internationally. Cambodia has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), allowing individual communications to the CEDAW treaty body, a mechanism that has not yet been used in Cambodia. Lawyers were also introduced to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD), which is mandated to receive individual petitions for instances of unlawful or arbitrary detention in any country that is a member of the United Nations.
Destination Justice will lead a second workshop this month focusing on the types of charges that human rights activists, journalists and members of community organisations might face in the course of their work and how lawyers can respond to those charges.
This training forms part of Destination Justice’s Legal Education Assistance Program, which aims to enhance the legal knowledge and practical skills for those working in the justice sector in Cambodia.