King Norodom Sihamoni has issued royal decrees establishing appeal courts in Phnom Penh and in the provinces, which are due to open in April 2020.
According to the royal decrees dated August 17, the Kingdom’s first appeal court, which is located in the capital, is now officially called the Phnom Penh Appeal Court.
Meanwhile, three additional appeal courts have been established, each in Tboung Khmum, Battambang, and Preah Sihanouk provinces.
Phnom Penh Appeal Court is tasked with settling appeals filed against decisions made by Phnom Penh Municipal Court and Kandal Provincial Court.
Phnom Penh Appeal Court is also tasked with completing any outstanding cases handled by the original Appeal Court.
Additionally, if a regional appeal court is not ready to operate by the expected date, the Phnom Penh Appeal Court is authorised to handle its cases.
Meanwhile, Tboung Khmum Appeal Court will handle appeals filed against a decision made by the provincial courts of Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, and Tboung Khmum.
Battambang Appeal Court will handle appeal complaints from the provincial courts of Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, and Siem Reap.
Preah Sihanouk Appeal Court will handle appeal cases from the provincial courts of Takeo, Kampot, Kampong Speu, Koh Kong, and Preah Sihanouk.
All the appeal courts will also handle complaints sent back by the Supreme Court.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said that the construction of the three regional appeal courts are still underway and will be completed next year.
“These regional appeal courts will make it convenient for people to file an appeal to their nearest court,” he said.
“Many people in the past gave up a chance to file an appeal because they would have had to spend time to travel to Phnom Penh, and they fail at a chance to find justice,” he added.
Mr Malin said the ministry will soon select judges and prosecutors, as well as legal experts to work in the regional appeal courts.
“The establishment of the regional appeal courts also aims to address the long-standing issue of prison overcrowding,” he said. “Once a court case is ended, innocent detainees could be released.”
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for human rights group Licadho, yesterday said the additional appeal courts will likely speed up appeal processes. However, judges and prosecutors must be selected carefully.
“It’s important to ensure that people working in the regional appeal courts are not involved in corruption or nepotism so that they will work fairly and instill public trust in the country’s judicial system,” Mr Sam Ath said.
Srey Chanthy, a resident in Banteay Meanchey province, yesterday hoped that the regional appeal courts would make it more convenient for people to file an appeal.
“It takes me a day by bus to travel to Phnom Penh. I could not imagine I would spend that much time just to file an appeal,” she said.