Court Backlog Increased by 700 Cases in 2004

The backlog of thousands of crim­inal and civil cases waiting to be resolved by Cambodia’s judicial system increased by almost 700 in 2004 compared to the previous year, a government official reported Thursday.

Justice Ministry Secretary of State Y Dan said that there are 125 more criminal and 564 more civil cases before the country’s already backlogged and beleaguered court system than in 2003.

“The cases are piling up,” Y Dan said at a conference looking at ac­cess to justice and alternative ways to resolve conflicts.

“Without money, without financial support, you cannot do anything,” Y Dan said, blaming the short­age of resources available to the Justice Ministry for the problems.

This year alone, there are 2,276 criminal cases waiting to be heard and 11,243 civil cases, Y Dan said.

At the end of 2003, there were 2,151 criminal cases and 10,679 civ­il cases in the queue.

Even as the number of cases wait­­ing to be heard increases, Thav Kimhor, director of the In­ter­ior Ministry’s Central Crim­inal De­part­ment, said crime is in­creas­ing as well—some 2,200 more crim­inal cas­es were reported in 2004 than in 2003.

Y Dan said one alternative the gov­­ernment and NGOs are examining is handling petty crimes and civil matters—such as divorces and neighbor disputes—at the com­mune level through local leaders.

Several village, commune and district leaders who spoke at the con­­ference said they already handle many of those cases because of the long delays in court.

“If we refer to the court, even a di­vorce case can last three years,” said Long Nget, a commune chief from Kompong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district.

“Solving problems at the commune level costs nothing,” he said.

But Long Nget said if lo­cal leaders are to resolve cases, the government must outline what their roles and responsibilities will be.

“If we are to have power, a law must be adopted saying what those powers are,” he said.


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