LAOS - Promoting the Rule of Law : Updates on Access to Justice
Project LAO/031 - Support Programme for Legal Teaching and Training and to the Promotion of the Rule of Law Concept in Lao is strengthening the governance programme of Lao PDR, with the support of the Institute for Legal Support and Technical Assistance (ILSTA). The Project assists the Government of Laos (GoL) to address key capacity and structural gaps that limit the effectiveness of the justice system and that inhibit inclusive participation in rule of law reform initiatives, legal education, law enforcement and access to justice.
While the rule of law in Laos is still in a fledgling state, the project has already attained significant milestones: Last year, the project was able to support the establishment of four (4) legal aid offices in the provinces of Bokeo, Luang Namtha, Bolikhamxay and Khammouane; and this year, it is determined to complete the establishment of 15 district offices in five (5) targeted provinces: Bokeo, Luang Namtha, Vientiane, Bolikhamxay, Khammouane.
The project has improved access to justice for many marginalized community members through legal aid services, raising awareness on legal rights among nearly 17 915 people (this number includes views on social media post), and by building the capacity of a total of 3 622 participants at workshops, composed of legal practitioners, legal educators and key players in the government sector. Through ILSTA and their legal skills trainings, the project has enhanced the professional development of both women and men in the legal sector. The project significantly invested in improving the quality and reach of legal aid services to ensure justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
In this vein, the project and its government partners are currently developing a legal aid “toolkit” to guide legal aid practitioners while a manual for the Village Mediation Committees (VMCs) is being drafted. In a training workshop on legal aid, Ms. Manichanh Chanthavilay, Officer of the Judicial Promotion System Department of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), responsible for the Legal Aid Programme, said that in Khammouane Province, legal aid has already been provided in 71 cases for its citizens, who in turn appreciated the free legal assistance for some vital and necessary legal matters, such as human trafficking and land disputes.
The Vice-Minister of Justice (MoJ), Bounsavard Boupha (left) and the CTA of LAO/031, Reginald M. Pastrana, presided one of the series of workshops aimed at developing the capacity of various MoJ officers.
The project has also promoted the rule of law, while supporting the judicial system to better serve and address the needs of its citizens. The project team worked alongside key government stakeholders to implement reforms, render technical assistance and capacity-development support to provincial legal aid offices. Among the reforms it supported were the legal awareness campaigns and institutionalization of the “Legal Aid Decree” (PM No. 77) and the amendments to the MoJ decree on Village Mediation Committees (VMC), which will become a Prime Minister Decree. Lately, the project is providing support to amend the court enforcement of cases.
The Vice-Minister of Justice, Bounsavard Boupha (right) and the CTA of LAO/031, Reginald M. Pastrana presided over public consultations with representatives from various provinces in the north on the proposed Village Mediation Committee Decree.
During a series of public consultations on the VMC Decree, H.E. Bounsavard Boupha, Vice Minister of Justice, stated that: “The VMC, amidst costly and protracted court trials and proceedings, can provide alternative fair justice to the people of Laos”. He stressed that this VMC Decree shall be patterned after ASEAN best practices by settling small disputes in a more transparent and fair system. As this has now developed, the VMC decree is now with the Office of the Prime Minister for adoption.
ILSTA, through its President, Richard Philippart, together with various government partners, chaired a seminar-workshop on the capacity development of Law Enforcement Authorities (LEA) and several government officials
Responding to the prevalence of human trafficking and money laundering, the project through cooperative efforts with ILSTA, conducted a seminar-workshop series on how to combat these crimes and how the Lao PDR can comply with its agreements with other countries under Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).
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