The lack of qualified lawyers available to provide criminal defense representation to the poor is a serious problem in post-conflict and transitional countries. There are often only a handful of lawyers available to represent all indigent defendants. The new UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems provide an opportunity for addressing the lack of sufficient counsel to indigent defendants in transitional countries. The International Legal Foundation (ILF) is an international nongovernmental organization founded to assist post-conflict and transitional countries in developing free, quality, defense services for the poor. ILF has established public defender programs in Afghanistan, Nepal, and the West Bank.
ILF country staff and the ABA Rule of Law Initiative form an expert panel to address challenges in establishing effective criminal defense services for the poor in post-conflict settings. The panel discusses strategies for ensuring early access to quality legal defense for the poor and the protection of defendants’ rights globally. The panel also reflects on the new UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems and considers future opportunities for promoting the rights of indigent accused persons at all stages of a criminal case.