Two law students and 17 lawyers from 10 Cambodian legal aid organizations participated in a full-day training on the new national Criminal Procedure Code, entitled THE ROLE OF THE CRIMINAL DEFENDER, held at the International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) office in Phnom Penh on July 25, 2008. The training was led by Deputy Chief of the Appellate Court, Chuon Sun Leng and hosted by IBJ Cambodia Fellow Ouk Vandeth.

Topics of the training included the rights of the accused, procedures for search and seizure, and investigation of flagrant delicto crimes, among others. Trainees expressed particular interest in exploring how they can protect the rights of their clients in the face of procedural violations on the part of prosecutors and police.

The new Cambodian Criminal Procedure Code, promulgated in August of 2007, permits prosecutors to formally delay proceedings and impose a longer detention period before trial. Therefore, the code necessitates a stronger role for criminal defenders, who can move to null arrests and dismiss proceedings when prosecutors and police act beyond the limits of their power. “Defenders are eager to understand their role and find out how they can better use their skills to defend clients,” said Mr. Vandeth.

“Competent criminal defenders deter corruption and make the justice system stronger overall,” continued Mr. Vandeth. “IBJ has made it a mission to raise awareness of the new code over the past year among defense and prosecution, so that the system will become more fair and functional as a result of the efforts of both sides.”

Almost 100% of participants in the July 25th training reported that the training was very helpful to them, and most suggested that future trainings be even lengthier and more in-depth, demonstrating the need for and enthusiasm about this type of opportunity in the Cambodian criminal justice community.

“A small session like this one allows participants to ask questions and share knowledge,” concluded Mr. Vandeth. “Most Cambodians have no idea what their rights are if they are accused of a crime. That is why it is so important to train more criminal defenders here.”

About International Bridges to Justice
International Bridges to Justice was founded in 2000 by Karen Tse, an American lawyer and ordained minister, to provide legal training to defence advocates worldwide in order to prevent torture and ensure accused persons adequate legal representation. IBJ has programs in six other countries including China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burundi, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and has just recently registered in India.