Legal Aid and Human Rights Program


In a democratic country it is a prerequisite that all citizens get economic and social justice. Therefore, as long as poor exist in the society, legal aid will be necessary to uphold human rights and equality. Realizing the importance of legal aid in a given social atmosphere the developed countries like UK, U.S.A. and Canada have adopted the legal aid program. In these developed nations legal aid has been identified as an effective instrument for erasing the socio-economic disparities in their societies. It is for this reason that the benefit of legal aid has been extended to the deserving members of the society not as a charity but as their civil right, having the Constitutional backing and support. Legal aid is an instrument to achieve protection in law is also embedded in the Constitution of Bangladesh.
 
In line with the international commitment to the principle of equality of justice as enshrined in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has been pledged in the preamble of the Constitution of the people’s Republic of Bangladesh that one of the fundamental aims of the state is to realize a society in which equality of justice would be secured for all citizens. Not only that article 27 of the Constitution provides for a fundamental right that all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. It dose not require any reference to cite how illusory and meaningless those commitment and constitutional protection of fundamental rights are when we see that most of the indigent litigants in the country cannot afford the cost of defending their basic civil rights by appointing a lawyer or traveling to the District Court. Protection of equality before law and equal access to law in the Constitution becomes mere paper tiger when an indigent people finds himself in the police custody or jail custody and cannot defend himself by affording a lawyer. The economic condition of the common people forming 90% of the total population baffles description. They are not only poverty- stricken but are deprived of the minimum basic needs of life. Modern life and civilization seem to have been a beckoning of  the horizon to them. The demon of illiteracy and wants has still kept them subjugated and ignorant of the basic human rights and amenities. Their fate revolves round the globe of darkness without any better change. Our poor litigant people, most of whom pass more than half of the year through acute starving condition, cannot afford to reach the doors of any law chamber and derive any benefit of their services in many cases and as a result, they silently bear the of agonies and burns of injustice done to them in various spheres of life without any legal relief. This is nothing but a negation to them of one of their fundamental rights of equality before law and the equal protection of law. 
 
In 42 year time of its independent constitutional history legal aid movement in Bangladesh has not gained any momentum at the governmental level until 2000. It was in 2000 when the Government in assurance of financial cooperation by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) made an imitative to provide legal aid to indigent litigants and in view of that plan the legal Aid Act 2000 was passed providing for legal mechanism and access to legal aid throughout the country. Before this Government initiative in 2000, legal aid program at the hand of differed non-government organizations have been operating scattered at different parts of the country. 
 
Center for Integrated Social Development (CISD) is one of the national organization in the field of legal aid services, human rights and women’s rights in Bangladesh. Founded in 1995 by pioneering human rights activists, the organization has maintained strong leadership and accumulated rich experiences in various fields within the human rights sector in Bangladesh. The organization is providing legal awareness and legal aid services for the poor and vulnerable peoples in its catchment areas. Moreover, through research, investigation and advocacy work CISD has become an important pressure group contributing to law reform and to counter human rights violations in Bangladesh. CISD emphasizes community mobilization, participation, empowerment, volunteerism and holistic legal aid. CISD’s seeks to empower local communities so that they become aware and responsive to human rights violations (HRVs).
 
CISD is contributing to increased awareness among the public and decision makers by monitoring the human rights situation in Bangladesh and provide the public with statistics on HR violations. 
 
Under the Legal Aid and Human Rights Program of the organization, CISD has been implemented the following projects:
 
1. Towards Human Rights and its Violation Expulsion (THRIVE) Project;
2. Legal Services and Good Governance Project;
3. Mass Awareness & Campaign on Stop Early Marriage and Anti-Trafficking to Women & Children;
 
 
1. Towards Human Rights and its Violation Expulsion (THRIVE) Project:
 
With the financial assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand, CISD been implemented Towards Human Rights and its Violation Expulsion (THRIVE) Project in Bhaluka upazila of Mymensingh district and Sreepur upazila of Gazipur district from July 1999 to June 2000. 
 
Goal of the project was to halt the increasing trend of Human Rights violation and to empowering women and children with adequate information on their rights and responsibilities and statutory support available in the country to protect themselves. Also to rehabilitate those victims of Human Rights violation and sex abuse, specially children and women, who become helpless to secure both shelter and treatment.
 
Objectives of the project were-

  a. To illustrate Declaration of Human Rights among illiterate and disadvantaged section of mass-people in the country to the UN Decade for Human Rights;
  b. To provide TOT on human rights education to members of HR Activists;
  c. To empower women and children with understanding of basic rights and responsibilities in the society-so that they can resist oppression and violation;
  d. To facilitate victims of oppression and other social crimes for getting fair judgment and good treatment in collaboration with Law-enforcing agencies, judicial department and other likeminded NGOs;
  e. To rehabilitate distressed and shelterless victims of oppression and abuse (both women and children) along with primary health care services;
  f. To create awareness amongst members of law enforcing agencies on HR issues and help them to get back conviction of the general public.
    
2. Legal Aid Services and Good Governance Project :
 
With the financial assistance from Help Bangladesh (OKLAHOMA), CISD has been implemented the Legal Aid and Good Governance Project in Sreepur pazila of Gazipur district; Hatibandha upazila of Lalmonirhat district and Belkuchi upazila of Sirajganj district from 2005 to 2008. At present CISD has been implementing this project by its own fund. Under this project CISD implementing the following activities:
 
  a. Awareness Raising Training;
  b. Legal Aid Services to victims of oppression and other social crimes for getting fair judgment and good treatment in collaboration with Law-enforcing agencies, judicial department and other likeminded NGOs;
 
3. Mass Awareness & Campaign on Stop Early Marriage and Anti-Trafficking to Women & Children:
 
With the financial assistance from Help Bangladesh (OKLAHOMA), CISD has been implemented the Mass Awareness & Campaign on Stop Early Marriage and Anti-Trafficking to Women & Children Project in Belkuchi upazila of Sirajganj district; Hatibandha upazila of Lalmonirhat district; Naogaon Sadar, Raninagar and Atrai upazila of Naogaon district from 2010 to 2011. Under the project CISD has been conducted the following activities:
 
a. Mass Awareness Campaign and Rally for Stopping Early Marriage and Anti-Trafficking to Women & Children;
b. Awareness Raising Training for Community peoples, member of local government and religious leaders of the project areas;
c. Experience sharing meeting.