Cambodia’s legal system was completely destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime. When IBJ’s CEO and Founder, Karen Tse first started working in Cambodia in 1994 in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s regime, there were only 10 lawyers left alive in the whole country. Those arrested had no access to justice and were left in prison indefinitely. IBJ began work in Cambodia in 2005, with its first Defender Resource Center established in 2006. Today, we continue to work to build constructive relationships with authorities in order to provide comprehensive legal representation to vulnerable prisoners.

Impact in Numbers

Less than 30 years ago Cambodia only had 10 lawyers to serve its population of over 10 million, Legal professionals were virtually driven into extinction as the regime systematically eliminated its “enemies”. Since then IBJ has worked to transform the criminal justice system, institutionalizing state sponsored legal aid, enhancing the capacity of lawyers through training and continuing to achieve impactful change.

  • 6 Defender Resource Centers providing legal protection in 15 of 25 provinces
  • 749 lawyers trained
  • 12,835 cases represented
  • 1,718 justice officials trained through roundtables
  • 10,092,049 people reached through rights awareness campaigns
  • 5 eLearning Modules created

Systems Change

In Cambodia strategic partnerships have been created with government bodies, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior, General Department of Prisons and with justice organizations such as the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights and Legal Aid of Cambodia. These partnerships allow IBJ to maximise their impact and build constructive relationships with authorities, legal organizations and local NGO’s, institutionalizing IBJ’s mission of early access to a lawyer. 

MOU with Ministry of Justice 2012

MOU with Bar Association of Kingdom of Cambodia 2015

Our Presence in Cambodia
At its height, IBJ provided legal protection in 20 of 25 provinces, and stationed lawyers in courthouses in remote provinces. Legal aid is now accepted as part of Cambodia’s justice system.

High impact successes include:

  • Running radio rights awareness programs educating individuals on their legal rights to counsel, a fair trial, freedom from torture, and on where to seek legal aid services.
  • Providing legal skills training to increase the capacity of Cambodia’s criminal defense lawyers.
  • Establishing and maintaining a 24-hour legal aid hotline for accused which receives about 50 calls a month, allowing IBJ to provide the fastest possible legal representation to detainees.
  • Providing access to high quality free legal aid services to the poorest in 15 provinces and in the Court of Appeal
  • IBJ organizes Roundtable discussions to promote cooperation among justice stakeholders including Governors, Commune Chiefs, Judges, Prosecutors, NGOs, Prison Chiefs

Defender Resources

We provide training, tools, manuals and eLearning developed with our partners, funded through grants, and resourced through pro-bono assistance. Our Defense Wiki has been accessed over 44 thousand times and it, along with our other resources, provides a critical tool, enhancing the capacity of lawyers and improving their productivity.


What we need

There are many ways to get involved, to help make a long term difference. Please get in touch.

Policy Paper ‘Strengthening Legal Aid in Cambodia’s Courts of Appeal’

IBJ has now been working in the Courts of Appeal for over a decade. This policy paper informs and guides decision-makers, and those with the power to drive change, to transform systems and practices to realise access to justice for all.