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CDP's History

The history of the Cambodian Defenders Project is closely linked to the history of Cambodia after 1993. By the end of the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign in 1979, Cambodia's legal system was in ruins. All but 10 lawyers had been executed, had died from starvation, disease or forced labour, or were living in exile. The Courts and Law Faculty were abandoned, legal texts burnt. In 1991, the Paris Peace Agreements brought a fragile end to the country's civil war. Following successful democratic elections sponsored by the United Nations, Cambodia's new Constitution was promulgated in 1993 and the process of rebuilding Cambodia's shattered society began – and the work of CDP.

Due to the advocacy of CDP and other organisations, the ECCC includes forced marriage and rape in marriage in the charges against former Khmer Rouge leaders in Case 002/02. CDP appoints Hong Kimsuon as Acting Executive Director. It employs 10 staff and maintains two program areas on legal justice (JUSDEK) and gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge rule.
CDP hosts a third Women’s Hearing with the Young Generation. CDP successfully lobbies the international CEDAW Committee to make recommendations to the Cambodian Government regarding response to GBV survivors of the Khmer Rouge.
CDP hosts an international Women’s Hearing, with GBV in conflict survivor testifiers from across the Asia Pacific region. CDP commences an independent organisational review process and implements organisation change in line with consultant recommendations.
Organisation of the first Women's Hearing: Survivors of sexual violence under the Khmer Rouge tell their stories in public. GBV team publishes a second non-randomised study of GBV under the Khmer Rouge and a book of 18 GBV survivor profiles.
Province offices are closed due to end of funding. Production of the film “Happy House” to raise awareness for domestic violence.
CDP establishes a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) program team working on GBV crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge. Publication of new research results on male behaviour towards prostitutes.
CDP conducts the first focused research on GBV under the Khmer Rouge rule, authored by Kasumi Nakagawa. The research found evidence of widespread GBV during the regime
The ECCC is established in Phnom Penh, CDP is involved from the beginning and supports KR victims. Donor funds reach an all-time high at more than 1,000,000 USD received from nine different organisations.
CDP Executive Director, Sok Sam Oeun, is appointed international observer for the general elections in Thailand.
CDP is honoured with the International Human Rights Award of the American Bar Association.
CDP gains official status as an independent Cambodian NGO. It consists of 31 lawyers recognised by the newly formed Cambodian Bar Association, 30 support staff and branch offices in Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, Kratie and Kampong Thom.
CDP organises training seminars for 11,730 persons on law, criminal investigation techniques, trial techniques and specific issues such as domestic violence and human trafficking
CDP co-organises the first conference on Administration of Justice Reform, in Hong Kong. The conference is the first of more than 30 follow-up seminars over the next few years.
The California Defender Association honours CDP with the Award for the Defender of the Year. Prominent Cambodian lawyer, Sok Sam Oeun, enters CDP and is subsequently appointed as Executive Director in 1998.
CDP is founded as a project of the International Human Rights Law Group (now Global Rights). 26 legal cases were taken up in the first year and 25 human rights activists trained to become criminal defenders.