Bhutan National Legal Institute and UNDP raise awareness on legal aid among the local leaders of Trongsa district as part of efforts to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable in the country have equal access to justice and legal services.
Taking legal aid to the grassroots
August 25, 2023
Ngawang Dendup is the Tshogpa (village representative) of Khamey Chiwog under Dragteng Gewog in Trongsa district. He is one of the 35 local leaders (Gups, Tshogpas and Mangmis) of Trongsa who are attending a two-day sensitization workshop on legal aid by the National Legal Aid Centre, Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI).
“As Tshogpa, I often find myself mediating disputes. I helped resolve two matrimonial disputes internally and one in the court so far this year. The sensitization workshops like this helps us understand our country’s laws, judicial processes and legals rights and responsibilities of citizens, which will enable us to contribute better towards ensuring people in the villages have equal access to justice,” Tshogpa Namgay Dendup said.
On the National Legal Aid Centre, he said it will be of huge benefit to the poor and needy. “Of the five gewogs in Trongsa, Dragteng has the highest poverty rate, and Khamey, which I represent, is the poorest. I look forward to helping the indigent from my chiwog in accessing legal aid services.”
The National Legal Aid Centre, the country’s first such establishment, was inaugurated on 19 October 2022. UNDP supported the establishment of the centre building on longstanding partnership with the Justice Sector in strengthening the rule of law and access to justice.
The centre provides legal advice, assistance and/or legal representation to the indigent persons, securing the rights of people who are at risk of being left behind. Since its establishment, 52 vulnerable individuals—21 men, 31 women and five persons with disabilities—have received legal aid services from the centre.
At the two-day sensitization workshop, the Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) educated the local leaders on what constitutes legal aid services, eligibility criteria and the procedures for accessing legal aid services.
Legal aid is indispensable for ensuring every individual’s right to a fair trial enshrined in the country’s constitution. This provision enhances the rule of law and protects the basic rights of the people to access justice. It also helps eligible persons understand legal processes, which are often complex and difficult to understand for laypeople.
“The sensitization workshops will help us reach our hard-to-reach rural communities where some of the most vulnerable sections of our society live. We hope that local leaders will go back and raise awareness on legal aid among the people in their communities and help the poor and needy in availing themselves of legal aid services,” said Tshering Pem, Chief Legal Officer with BNLI.
Officials of BNLI and the students of Jigme Singye Wangchuck Law School (Human Dignity Clinic members) educated local leaders on other relevant laws, such the Land Act, Civil and Criminal Procedure Code and Moveable and Immovable Act.
Similar sensitization workshop will be also held in other districts.
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