Earlier this year, International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) and Cambodian Bridges to Justice (CBJ) conducted a roundtable discussion with members of the Ministry of Justice and the National Police addressing the need to increase lawyers’ access to underprivileged defendants held in pre-trial detention.

The event was an important milestone for IBJ Cambodia’s Program “Ensuring the Right to Legal Representation in Cambodia,” an undertaking sponsored by the United Nations Democracy Fund, which began in January 2019 and will continue through December 2020.

Finding ways to provide access to justice to poor and vulnerable people

During the one-day session led by CBJ’s Country Director Mr. Ouk Vandeth, the Municipal Court Prosecutor of Kandal Province, officials from the Ministry of Justice and local police officers discussed methods for providing poor and vulnerable people access to justice. The group discussed the importance of proper identification and treatment of minors, the need to improve lawyers’ access to defendants held in jails and prisons, and the requirement of obtaining sufficient evidence prior to arrest. Participants clarified how they can work together in relation to each topic.

The prosecutor spoke highly of the event, describing it as a “valuable opportunity for prosecutors, officers from the Ministry of Justice, and police officers to get together to discuss ways [to] prevent minors from [suffering] illegal treatment and [improper] identification, and allow lawyers to meet […] defendants in prison.”



Officers listen in as Mr. Ouk Vandeth introduces the discussion topics to the stakeholders.

The police officers agreed with the prosecutor’s request for lawyers to have access to clients in the prison (or police stations) beginning 24 hours after intake, so that accusations of illegal interrogation procedures will be known to the lawyer prior to the trial. Police officers also agreed to advise the accused of their rights while in custody (Article 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

Moreover, IBJ Cambodia’s Technology Manager Phou Pheakdey introduced the new iConnectJustice app and hotline to the prosecutor and police officers. The app and hotline will allow individuals accused of crimes as well as their families to contact available pro-bono lawyers including IBJ lawyers for representation. All parties commended the app and hotline, and gave suggestions on how to advertise and simplify the iConnectJustice program for use by people in provincial areas.

Mr. Phou Pheakdey introduces the iConnectJustice application and hotline to the justice stakeholders.

IBJ’s work in Cambodia

Cambodians continue to confront challenges as the country rebuilds its judicial system two decades following the end its internal conflict. Numerous obstacles to justice exist, and the accused are regularly deprived of due process rights. Bureaucratic challenges together with a shortage of lawyers — especially in the provinces — has constrained early access to a lawyer by the accused. IBJ aims to amplify people’s legal rights and prevent violations of due process through providing early access to lawyers in over ten provinces. As a part of this mission, IBJ trains defense lawyers via live and online training sessions. IBJ also promotes rights awareness by organizing street law campaigns, radio talk shows, and other public events. Finally, IBJ hosts roundtables such as this one to help create a collaborative platform among justice stakeholders to seek solutions to problems affecting effective and efficient access to justice to vulnerable populations.

IBJ’s newest initiative in Cambodia involves the development of accessibility tools such as the iConnectJustice app, a legal hotline, and an automated Facebook bot system. These tools will not only help individuals to have greater access to lawyers, but will also help lawyers to access legal information and manage their caseloads. Furthermore, IBJ will be able to track legal needs across Cambodia using data obtained through the tools.

Contact details and further information

If you have any questions about IBJ’s country program in Cambodia, please contact:

Sanjeewa Liyanage                                        or                     Ouk Vandeth

International Program Director, IBJ                                        Country Director, CBJ

Phone: +41(0) 22 731 24 41                                                  Phone: +855 70 857 529

Email: sliyanage@ibj.org                                                        Email: ibj_vandeth@online.com.kh

To follow IBJ’s project in Cambodia, connect with IBJ on Facebook.