The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) on September 15 launched a series of online modules aiming to increase public awareness on the rights to fair trial and to further provide input on judiciary reforms in the country.
The launch was held in Phnom Penh with the participation of government officials including representatives from the ministries of Justice; Education, Youth and Sport; and Women’s Affairs. Also in attendance were lawyers, monks and law students.
CCHR executive director Chak Sopheap said this was the first project in a series, aimed at promoting the exercise of the rights to a fair trial.
Sopheap said the project has two specific objectives: To disseminate the concept of what a fair trial should consist of and to urge adherence to the norms of providing fair trials via the presence of observers.
“[It] helps all of us understand the basics of trial procedures and the principle elements guaranteed by the right to a fair trial,” she said.
Sopheap noted that CCHR had assigned its officials to investigate how trials were being conducted in the lower courts and the courts of appeal since 2009.
“In order to ensure respect for human rights and the protection of human rights, it is imperative that we continue to observe the courts, continue to cooperate and consult with relevant institutions such as the justice ministry or the judiciary on how to improve the judicial system.
“We have received the green light from the justice ministry and all courts that we have observed so our observers are welcome,” she said.
Justice ministry secretary of state Chin Malin said the dissemination of information on fair trials is a good thing and add to what the ministry has already done.
“We work with all stakeholders, including the public, law enforcement and court officials, so what she is doing is a good contribution to that,” he said.
At the same time, Malin suggested that the CCHR strengthen the capacity of its officials who conduct trial observations to avoid errant conclusions or evaluations that show a lack of understanding of court procedures.
Kann Kall, country director for Swedish NGO Diakonia, said this project has made significant progress and will help the public understand the 14 elements that should be present for a trial to be fair.
Kall said these include protection against double jeopardy; right to legal representation; presumption of innocence; no forced confessions; a speedy trial; public hearings; the right of the defendant to be present at trial; independent and impartial judges; and the right to defend oneself by presenting evidence and questioning witnesses.