A two-and-a-half-day conference attended by judges and prosecutors from across Cambodia concluded on Friday, though several participants said they felt little had been achieved, as any power to bring change to the judiciary lay outside their control.
Speaking to the conference held at the Council for the Development of Cambodia building, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana told participants he recognized the problems that they faced. “I believe judges and prosecutors are having difficulty fulfilling this duty,” he said. “I am trying to find a solution to help you all.”
Six main difficulties faced by the courts were identified at the meeting, and solutions proposed.
Problems included the holding of suspects for longer than the legal six-month pre-trial detention period. “The workshop decided to allow judges and prosecutors to try their best to reduce the cases over the permitted [pre-trial] limit,” conference organizers said in a statement.
Other problems included the handling of human trafficking cases, as well as courts failing to hold misdemeanor appeals within a permitted 3-year period, and criminal appeals within 10 years. Court officials were told to inform people of the verdicts in cases, including cases where sentences were given out in absentia.
The conference criticized officials for imprisoning people who were unable to pay compensation to their victims in civil and penal cases, and also called on prosecutors not to imprison victims of crime and acquit the perpetrators.
Hanrot Raken, Appeals Court prosecutor general, said the Justice Ministry will cooperate with that court and the Supreme Court to prepare a list of cases that have not been dealt with in a timely manner.
“We will order the court to prepare a list because we need to consider it seriously,” he said.
One deputy prosecutor said on condition of anonymity that he felt the conference had been largely futile. “This is a conference of court officials but we cannot make any decision because we are not independent. We just repackaged the old issues,” he said.