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Dear Visitor,

we are glad you found your way to our Homepage.

To give you a short introduction to the Cambodian Defenders Projcet and our work, please visit "Vision and Mission", "Achievements" and "History of CDP". See also our homepage on gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge on www.gbvkr.org.

Please feel free to contact us for any question, suggestion or cooperation.

We thank you for your interest in our work,

The Cambodian Defenders Project

CDP's Vision & Mission

Cambodian Defenders Project is one of the oldest Cambodian humanitarian NGO’s. Established in 1994 as a project of the International Human Rights Law Group, it became an independent Cambodian non-government organisation in 2001. CDP is operated and staffed by Cambodian nationals with some expatriate technical advisors. We implement two programs: Justice for Survivors of Democratic Kampuchea program and Gender-Based Violence during the Khmer Rouge program. 

Our vision is for the human rights of all Cambodians to be respected and protected by the institutions of a liberal democracy and the rule of law. Our mission is to promote the full range of human rights for all Cambodian people by providing legal representation to the poor and vulnerable and by strengthening the institutions required for a liberal democracy and for the rule of law. The access to justice is a right, not a privilege, and must never be a matter of power, kinship or money. As the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia states it in Article 31: “Every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights, freedom and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, color, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other status”.   

Equality, freedom and human rights, respect, justice and the rule of law are the basis for a stable democracy. We have championed these rights since our inception, including through the legal defence of high profile humanitarian cases, the training of thousands of legal and police officers, and through breaking the silence about gender-based violence (GBV) during the Khmer Rouge.
Achievements of CDP

Over the past two decades, CDP has striven for equal access to justice for the poor and vulnerable, for the institutional developing towards the rule of law and for the support of victims of human rights abuses. CDP had various successes in the GBV Section (since 2009) of its work as well as in the Legal Section, the latter containing different departments over time such as the Legal Awareness Program, the Women Resource Center, the Center against Trafficking, the Legal Aid Division and the Justice for the Survivors from Democratic Kampuchea (JUSDEK) program. Together, CDP’s departments can be proud of their key achievements.

Achievements of the Legal Section

  • providing free legal aid in 16,522 cases. Therefrom two thirds were criminal and one third civil cases, a great part of the latter related to land issues. Acquittal or dismissal was reached in 29% of all criminal cases
  • training of 11,730 persons (about a third police officers) on law, criminal investigation techniques, trial techniques and specific issues such as domestic violence and human trafficking. Capacity building and improving legal knowledge among legal officers is a major focus of CDP’s work
  • deployment of 95 (mostly female) sentinels against domestic violence in the countryside 2010-2012. They educated 7000 villagers on domestic violence, intervened in nearly 2000 cases and reduced violence in 84% of the targeted families
  • receiving the first acquittal in modern Cambodian judicial history to suppress the forced confession of a pregnant woman who miscarried following torture by police
  • securing the first restraining order preventing a violent husband from selling his wife's property
  • achieving the pre-trial release of a Cambodian editor jailed for publishing articles about an attempted coup and the release of human rights workers arrested in violation of the rights to freedom of association and assembly
  • providing expert advice on draft laws, such as Khmer Rouge Tribunal Law, Commune Election Law, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Cambodian Penal Code
  • having a petition read by Parliament, the first NGO to do so, and were the first to be officially requested by a parliamentary committee to comment on draft legislation. 

Achievements of the GBV-Section

  • conducting the first focussed research on Gender-based Violence (GBV) during the Khmer Rouge and breaking the silence on the topic: GBV did happen, and on a large scale, in “Democratic Kampuchea”
  • hosting three non-judicial truth-telling forums in the form of Women’s Hearings, held 2011, 2012 and 2013
  • representing 113 Civil Parties in cases of GBV at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • successfully lobbying  with other advocates for the inclusion of forced marriage and rape in the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders at the ECCC
  • successfully advocating to the international CEDAW Committee in 2013 to make recommendations to the Cambodian Government concerning justice and reparations for GBV survivors
  • conducting a monthly Khmer radio show with survivors, researchers and lawyers broadcasted in Phnom Penh and the countryside
  • establishing the biggest online collection of reports, research,  films and information material on Gender-based Violence under the Khmer Rouge: www.gbvkr.org


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 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.
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.


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