From June 27th to 29th, 2013, the Supreme Justice Commission in Exile held the first Tibetan Legal Fraternity Conference in Dharamsala, and the participants suggested that we should set up an non-governmental legal institution to provide legal aids to Tibetans in exile, popularize legal knowledge, improve legal knowledge, and consolidate the democratic system. With this, build a strong foundation to the future legal system of Tibet. Therefore, the proposal to establish the Tibetan Legal Association was passed at the meeting. On 29th, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama met all the participants and gave a high evaluation. He praised the establishment of the Tibetan Legal Association and gave us great encouragement. On July 23, 2014, the association was legally registered under the efforts of its president Mr. Lobsang Dakpa. The office was officially established in Dharamsala in 2016 with the funding support of the Tibet Fund. So far, the association has provided legal aids to hundreds of Tibetans in exile, and has carried out various activities to popularize legal knowledge in many Tibetan Settlements, monasteries and schools in exile. Let thousands of people know the law and understand the importance of the law.
Purpose of establishment
All democratic countries in the world regard the rule of law as a very important thing. Without the constraints of laws, there will be no perfect democratic society, and there will be no prosperity and development of the country. In the past few decades, although the Central Tibetan Administration has provided many facilities for the construction of the legal system and carried out many matters, there are still many Tibetans who are facing the problem of legal illiteracy. This has brought inconvenience to the whole society and has hindered the normal development of democracy. There are many legal issues that are inconvenient for the official to come forward to solve, and only unofficial institutions can solve the problem.
The Tibetan community and institutions in exile are in a period of freedom struggle. We must popularize the good and effective laws of various democratic countries, and absorb the essence of them to lay the foundation for the future legal construction of Tibet. This is also a difficult task given to us by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On September 7, 2016, when Mr. Lobsang Dakpa, the president of the association, and representatives of the Taiwan Congress met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he reported the work of the association to His Holiness. His Holiness was very happy. On November 3 of the same year, all the staff of the association was granted the opportunity to meet with His Holiness. At that time, His Holiness was very happy, and repeatedly asked the secretaries of the Dalai Lama Foundation to do their best to help the Tibetan Legal Association, and encouraged us to overcome difficulties and continue to work, to serve the Tibetan people.
All Tibetan legal scholars, lawyers, and law students have the right to be the member of the association. As of December 2019, 40 people have applied and became the members of the association. Afterwards, due to the pandemic, the trial of members could not be continued. Since 1959, hundreds of Tibetans have graduated from law universities, due to personal life reasons, they rarely engage in legal professional work. The association has one President, one Secretary, one accountant and one cashier. All expenditures of the association are managed by accounting and cashiers, the president and secretary are only authorized to sign and review. The bank account is a joint account; no one can withdraw money from the bank without the signatures of the President and secretary. Since the official establishment of the office in 2016, a total of 10 staff members had served the association, many of whom have resigned for different reasons and are now working in various jobs in different countries. Due to funding shortfalls these years, there are now only 2 staff members.
Results and Efficiency
Since 2016, a total of 610 Tibetans have been assisted by TLA, and about 21 legal awareness activities and legal aid activities have been carried out in different Tibetan settlements, monasteries and schools, a total of 2,848 people have received legal awareness training, workshop and talks. Made 34 videos on legal issues, and the ratings reached tens of thousands of people through Facebook and other social media.
Important examples are as following
- A TCV Silaku student from Nepal was investigated by the Indian authorities because he did not have a Registration Certificate (RC). He was detained and faced the risk of deportation. TCV was unable to solve such problems; they came to TLA office for assistance. The association has been in contact with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs through legal procedures, attended 4 times court hearing. Finally, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and relevant departments accepted the association’s application and defending, issued Registration Certificate (RC) for the student, and allowed him to continue his studies in India.
- A Tibetan’s Adhaar Card was illegally abused by an Indian and used for defrauding activities in GUJRAT. The Indian Police Department issued warrant of arrest to the Tibetan; our advocate went to the relevant departments several times to defend the victim. In the end, the Tibetan got cleared .
- In Dharamsala, a Tibetan was bayoneted by several Indians. The association intervened in the defending and liaison work of the case, which was finally judged by the court in favour of the late Tibetan.
- In Dharamsala, a family had extreme disputes over the allocation of a building, and could not adjust. Finally, through the adjustment of the association for many times, the problem of building allocation was solved calmly. We have solved several property disputes among Tibetans.
- For many Tibetans, their husbands and wives have been separated for many years. Because the Immigration office doubts the legality of couples, many Tibetan families cannot be reunited for many years and face serious problems of family breakdown. Through legal proceedings, TLA has so far helped seven families and made them reunited.
- The Society Registration of the Ministry of Culture and Religion of the Central Tibetan Administration has expired. Due to the amendment of India Society Registration Act, the department continues to process a new registration. At the request of the Tibetan Central Administration, TLA has gone through legal procedures and after several days of hard work, a new registration has been handled to the department. The minister of the department highly praised TLA in the parliament session.
- A mother and daughter got a visa to go to France, but because the mother did not have a Registration Certificate, they could not get EXIT PERMIT. When the mother and daughter cried for help in desperation, TLA legally applied for a Registration Certificate for the mother within one day through relevant channels. The EXIT PERMIT was also issued on the same day, ended the urgent need of mother and daughter.
- In Dharamsala, there are many foreigners spending their retire time here. Many of them want to leave a legal will when they are alive; many of them come to TLA office to ask for legal aid. So far, we have handled four legal wills.
- Many Tibetans in exile are engaged in business, operating restaurants and shops, but many do not have legal business licenses. So far, TLA has obtained four legal business licenses.
- Tibetan veterans, due to lack of various proofs, could not get government subsidies and retired military expenses. TLA used legal channels and legal procedures to obtain subsidies for their retirement and retired military expenses for the two retired veterans.
- In Dharamsala, there are many NGOs with different activities, but many have different registrations and related legal issues. TLA has given legal advice to the Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association, Tibet Charity, Tibet World Association, etc.
The above are just a few examples. So far, TLA has given Tibetans a lot of legal assistance, such as: drafting Affidavit for different issues and needs, Marriage Certificate, Divorce Certificate, Birth certificate, Death Certificate, Lawsuit Documents, Passport, Addaar Card, Corrections in the RC, correction of errors in Green Books, Driver’s License, Sale Agreements, traffic accident procedures, etc. TLA has helped hundreds of Tibetans.
The TLA President Mr. Lobsang Dakpa and Advocate Mr. Kunsang Topden participated in an international conference called “The 12th Ethnic Youth Leadership Workshop” held in Tokyo, Japan from November 14 to 17, 2017. Delivered speeches on Tibetan judiciary system and Democracy, met with dozens of Japanese MPs and explained the crisis facing Tibetans in Tibet.
From February 26th to March 7th, 2019, the President Mr. Lobsang Dakpa visited Australia, and met with more than 20 famous Chinese people’s activists, and held unofficial seminars.
In 2020, Ms. Tenzin Dechen, The advocate of TLA, participated in an international Conference on human rights and democracy in Taiwan, where she delivered a speech on the CCP’s persecution of human rights in Tibet, and met with Taiwanese parliamentarians, introduced the crisis faced by Tibetans in Tibet.