The idea for a national organisation involving lawyers providing free advice and representation to those unable to access justice due to poverty or disadvantage was first raised at a national conference of lawyers held by the Bangladesh Bar Council in 1992. Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) was subsequently established in 1993 dedicated to providing free legal services for the poor, with a Board of Trustees comprising eminent jurists, lawyers, and former judges of the Bangladesh Supreme Court. The founding lawyers strove to institutionalise, through BLAST, the tradition of legal aid, moving for individual cases involving political persecution and addressing issues like poverty, exclusion along with social discrimination. It was incorporated as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee on 29.05.1993 under the Companies Act, and registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (CTO 311 (23)/93). It is also separately registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau (786) on 19.12.1993 under the Foreign Donations (Registration and Control) Ordinance 1978.

From the outset, BLAST was firmly established within the legal profession. It was designed to ensure local involvement, and decentralised leadership, with elected leaders of each district Bar Association heading its district management committees, and respected members of civil society constituting its advisory committees, at district level and centrally.

Over time, BLAST moved from its initial focus on legal representation in the courts, to including a focus on alternative dispute resolution, and then to addressing systemic barriers to access to justice, by undertaking research and advocacy to press for legal, policy and institutional reforms. In recent years, it has extended its services to hard-to-reach areas, such as low-income groups and informal settlements in the cities, as well as hill and coastal areas. BLAST has also come to focus on issues of exclusion and discrimination based on gender, caste, religion, race, language and disability, as well as displacement. Lawyers remain at the core of the organisation, working alongside paralegals, researchers and advocates.

Currently operating in 21 districts across the country, BLAST works through its permanent staff at headquarters and in each district unit, in collaboration with its enlisted panel of about 2600 lawyers across the country who provide legal redress to clients on a pro bono basis, with a nominal honorarium. A panel of lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh also undertakes litigation and advocacy on law and policy reform. BLAST is governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of eminent jurists, lawyers and human rights advocates with experience in domestic and international protection of human rights, who provide critical leadership to the organisation. It is also supported by a Consultative Group, comprised of young professionals, including researchers, lawyers, and human rights advocates. It has a close relationship with the Bar Associations at all levels, in particular through its Management Committees comprised of leaders of the Bar within each District.

BLAST has gained extensive expertise in providing legal aid to poor and disadvantaged clients, having undertaken about 80,000 cases to date. Over the years, out of 175,000 applications received for legal assistance, BLAST resolved about 40,000 through mediation. It has also filed about 132 public interest litigation cases before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh as part of its advocacy for law and policy reforms to address institutional obstacles to justice delivery. It regularly undertakes awareness programmes on legal rights for community members in its areas of operation, including family laws, criminal laws and land laws. It is also involved in regular coordination meetings with local administration officials, in particular with key actors within the justice system, including members of the judiciary and legal profession, and with civil society organisations.


BLAST, YMCA Development Center, 1/1 Pioneer Road, Kakrail, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
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