Sat, Jul 02, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen praises Legal Aid Foundation on birthday

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the Legal Aid Foundation (法律扶助基金會) yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said he expected the foundation to work on protecting and defending the legal rights of the needy.

The foundation provides free legal services to low-income people, including foreign nationals.

"The system of legal aid exists not only to help the underprivileged to file lawsuits but, more importantly, it reflects the questions of the underprivileged in the judicial and legal arenas and so reminds the government as well as the public of the need to push relevant legal regulations for more comprehensive development," Chen said.

"I hope the Legal Aid Foundation will help the public place importance on the rights of the underprivileged to file lawsuits, an entitlement mandated by the Constitution," he said in a speech during yesterday's celebration.

Chen said the foundation should also consider enlarging the pool of people it provides legal assistance to. He said he hoped the foundation would consider sending legal professionals to remote areas and outlaying islands to help those in need of legal services.

"While the quantity of cases the foundation has helped with is important, what really counts is quality of service," Chen said.

Noting the foundation will host an international forum in Taipei in October, Chen said that the event, which will be attended by representatives from more than 10 countries, would help enhance Taiwan's image as a human-rights oriented country as well.

The foundation has 19 branch offices nationwide. More than 1,900 lawyers are available to help the underprivileged file lawsuits.

According the foundation's statistics, it has worked on more than 7,000 cases since its establishment last July.

The foundation receives an annual budget of NT$500 million from the Judicial Yuan.

According to foundation secretary-general Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), in order to receive free legal assistance applicants must be from low-income families.

Cheng said the foundation has helped defendants in criminal cases appeal unfair verdicts, as well as victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment or rape, victims of discrimination or work injuries, as well as the disabled, Aboriginals, children and teenagers.

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