Sharing Norwegian lessons on legal aid with China
A Chinese delegation visited the Faculty of Law as part of a European-Chinese cooperation aiming to promote legal assistance in remote areas and for disadvantaged groups in China.
Sharing experiences: Cecilie Figenschou Bakke, Director of the China Programme, welcomed the Chinese delegation to the UiO Faculty of Law (photo: T. M. F. Vestheim).
China is currently planning a new law on legal aid and is aiming to enhance its legal aid law and policy framework.
In this context, a Chinese delegation visited the University of Oslo and the Faculty of Law last week to learn about how Norway implements its obligation to provide its citizens with legal assistance.
Dr. Han Xiutao, Director of the National Legal Aid Centre, Ministry of Justice, in Beijing, led the delegation. Dr. Han was accompanied by provincial Legal Aid Centres in the provinces Henan and Shanxi, which will benefit from the knowledge sharing under the study visit.
Improving legal aid to disadvantaged groups
The overall aim of the EU Access to Justice Programme is to build knowledge in order to improve the legal aid provision for people in remote and inaccessible areas in China, especially towards disadvantaged groups, such as persons in economic difficulties. The implementing agency on the Chinese side is National Legal Aid Centre (NLAC) within the Ministry of Justice. The delegation was interested in gaining comprehensive insight into the legal aid system in Norway.
Cecilie Figenschou Bakke, Director of the NCHR China Programme, welcomed the delegation to the University of Oslo. She talked on Sino-Norwegian cooperation on legal aid and also stressed the importance of academic research on the topic as well as civil society engagement in legal aid assistance and social service delivery.
Researcher and legal aid expert Olaf Halvorsen Rønning from the Faculty of Law gave a thorough introduction to how Norwegian citizens are ensured the right to legal aid, followed by a well-received presentation by Bente Roli, Director of the Norwegian Office for Legal Aid (Fri Rettshjelp). Chinese and Norwegian experts engaged actively in discussions during the lecture sessions and over lunch in the Faculty Lounge 'Kjerka'.
Meeting Norwegian civil society
In the afternoon the group visited the Norwegian Civil Affairs Authority, under the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, where Director Wenche Bjørnland and colleagues received the Chinese guests. Bjørnland presented the Norwegian government's legal aid system.
The group also visited the House of Legal Aid (Jusshuset) where they met with civil society organisations JURK (legal aid for women's organisation), Jussbuss (mobile legal advice clinic), and Gatejuristen (legal aid to persons with drug-related issues). In the afternoon, professor Jon T. Johnsen also participated. Johnsen was, for many years, a key resource person in the legal aid exchange taking place between the University of Oslo and Peking University supported by the NCHR.
Legal aid during police investigation
The thematic focus of the 2016 Chinese study tour, which included England and Norway, was also criminal legal aid, particularly during police investigation. The group was connected to Norwegian experts and will meet with other relevant organisations in the UK.
The aims of the visits are to create dialogue between European and Chinese experts on policy and law development, capacity-building for legal aid service providers and the introduction of good and promising legal aid practices from Europe or elsewhere in China, through a series of pilot activities in the provinces of Henan and Shanxi.
The project is implemented by the British Council on behalf of seven Chinese and European partner organisations.