The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said in its annual report that the right to a public hearing at the Appeal Court is not fully respected nor is the right to legal representation in misdemeanour cases.
The 113-page report entitled “Fair Trial Rights in Cambodia, Monitoring at the Court of Appeal,” covered the period of November 2017 to October 2018, during which time CCHR analysed data gathered through its daily monitoring of 213 randomly selected criminal cases at the Court of Appeal.
The monitoring, CCHR said, uncovered that the right to a public hearing is not fully respected as none of the hearings it monitored had a notice posted on the public board outside the courtroom.
It added that the right to understand the nature of charges and the overall case is also not fully respected since the percentage of cases where defendants were fully informed decreased from 86 percent to 69 percent compared to previous monitoring.
It also found that the right to legal representation in misdemeanour cases was not always respected.
It said such a practice is not in line with international human rights law.
The CCHR noted that 25 percent of defendants in misdemeanour cases it monitored were not represented by lawyers, and in 34 out of 213 cases, the judges failed to inform the accused about their right to legal representation.
Hun Senag Hak, CCHR’s Fair Trial Rights project coordinator, said the respect for the right to a reasoned judgement remains problematic, adding that the judges failed to cite in detail the legal provisions and evidence upon which they relied to conclude their verdict.
“Instead, they only stated that the Court of First Instance’s judgement was upheld or overturned, without explaining why,” he said. “Last but not least, the rights of juvenile defendants, who should be given special protection, are often ignored.”
CCHR executive director Chak Sopheap yesterday said she hopes that the data, analyses and recommendations in the report will help increase respect for fair trial rights in the Kingdom.
“We urge the authorities to promptly take all appropriate steps to ensure that fair trial rights, and particularly, the presumption of innocence, the right to understand the nature and cause of the charges, the right to reasoned judgement, and the protection of a juvenile’s privacy are vigorously protected,” she said.
Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith yesterday questioned the CCHR’s research methodology, but noted that he will review the report.
“I will look into it in detail and see if the report is reflective of the real situation at the Appeal Court,” he said. “So far, the Appeal Court has no difficulty in executing its role to provide a fair trial for both the accused and the victims.”
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said the ministry will look into the issues in the report and use it as input for further reform of the judicial system.