The programme to enable the Lao people have easier access to justice has reached a remarkable progress since started, Reginald Pastrana, former Chief Technical Advisor of the Support Programme for Legal Teaching and Training and to the Promotion of the Rule of Law Concept in Laos - LAO/031 project said in a report. “As the Lao justice system goes into a significant phase, it will continuously offer citizens numerous options for legal recourse when their rights are violated,” he explained, adding that the Government of Laos (GoL) has instituted a strong legal enabling environment in the promotion of law and the enhancement of access to justice to its people.
Chief among these was the GoL’s adoption of Prime Minister (PM) Decree No. 77 in establishing legal aid offices and its effort to upgrade the Village Mediation Committees (VMCs), the alternative non-formal justice system, into a PM decree.
To bridge the gap between Lao citizens and the justice system, LAO/031 has already established five provincial legal aid offices and 15 legal aid offices in various districts. “These legal aid offices rely on trained Ministry of Justice (MoJ) district and provincial officers, together with members of the Lao Bar Association (LBA), to educate their fellow citizens about their legal rights and how to defend their rights in Lao’s formal and informal justice systems,” he explained.
On the Legal Education Campaigns
Pastrana further reported that using a variety of public education materials including comic books, pamphlets, and multimedia CDs, Project LAO/031, together with the Institute of Legal Support and Technical Assistance (ILSTA), supported the various government functionaries, especially the MoJ, to spread information on access to justice, particularly for women and children, to schools, provinces, districts and villages. Important laws were also disseminated including, among others, laws against violation of women and children, the law on human trafficking, land rights, and several others. The Clinical Legal Education at the Faculty of Law and Political Science (FLP) of the National University of Laos, together with some members of the LBA, provided free legal consultations. They also gave legal referrals and information on human rights and other forms of legal assistance.
Still, many people, especially women, are not aware of their legal rights or how to use the formal justice system. Additionally, many do not know where to turn when they face legal problems that could be resolved through the courts or community mediation. To reach the greatest number of vulnerable Lao citizens, the CTA explained that Mobile Legal Clinic outreach missions were held by the FLP teams at the far-flung province such as Attapeu. “As a result, a large number of people were able to attend and receive information on their legal rights, obtain one-on-one counselling on specific issues and in some cases, filed request,” he said.
Capacity Strengthening Programmes
It must be noted that the Lao People’s Supreme Court, the State Inspection Authority, the Office of the Supreme People’s Prosecutor, the MoJ and security sector institutions are critical actors that enforce rule of law, increase security and protect citizens’ rights. However, their capacity and authority are still not fully developed and needs further improvement, he further reported.
To address some of these issues, Pastrana said that the project, together with ILSTA, and in partnership with the GoL’s justice institutions, is undertaking a broad set of activities in the area of justice sector capacity building and modernisation. The primary goal of the project is to support Lao’s judicial institutions to strengthen their capacity with the ultimate purpose of improving the rule of law in Laos. The activities include the capacity development of the officers of these institutions, training on some key developments on law, like anti-money laundering, mutual legal assistance, anti-human trafficking, among others. A strong and reliable justice system in Laos is key to a secure society and a growing economy, he said.
LAO/031 project is co-financed by the Government of Laos and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and implemented by the Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Justice and LuxDev, the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency.↑ To the top