The Ministry of Justice has announced its decision to form a working group dedicated to reviewing and disseminating court rulings in civil cases.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) express optimism that this initiative could contribute to further enhancing the independence and fairness of the judiciary.

Operating in collaboration with both national and international experts, the group will be responsible for scrutinising and circulating court decisions, as outlined in a December 1 directive signed by justice minister Koeut Rith, officially released on December 4.

The directive outlines additional responsibilities for the group, stating the need for monitoring and assessing progress in reviewing and disseminating court decisions. Notably, the directive calls for the organisation of a training workshop focused on this initiative.

“The working group will undertake additional duties assigned by the ministry, with a particular focus on reporting progress, challenges, measures and proposals directly to the minister,” stated the directive.

The working group plans to utilise a budget allocation from the General Department of Civil Affairs to enhance the efficiency of their duties.

On December 5, Am Sam Ath, the operations director at the rights group LICADHO, said the creation of this working group reflects the ministry’s commitment to expediting court proceedings in both Phnom Penh and the provinces. Moreover, the objective is to foster an independent and fair court system, with a particular emphasis on gaining trust from the public.

“Thus, it is vital to examine and disseminate civil cases to reform the court system. The ministry must reinforce both independence and the system to restore public trust,” he said.

Sek Socheat, co-founder of the Mindset Development Organisation, said the effectiveness of the group lies in fulfilling its roles openly and transparently, serving the needs of all individuals. Notably, the Constitution delineates the three powers: the National Assembly and the Senate for legislative power, the government for executive power and the court for judicial power.

“We are of the view that when the executive branch disseminates all accomplishments, it may not truly represent the independence of Cambodia’s overarching institutions,” Socheat said.

He said that if this practice would blur the distinction between these three powers, it might lead to confusion or criticism for those exercising powers beyond the bounds specified in the Constitution.