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Ministry to open more local justice centres to ease court case backlog

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A truck transports prisoners to court. Hong Menea

Ministry to open more local justice centres to ease court case backlog

The Ministry of Justice is concerned over the delay in scheduling court cases, particularly at the Appeal Court level, and it has been creating regional justice centres and appeal courts to resolve the problem.

Its spokesman Chin Malin said this when speaking at a press conference on Thursday outlining the government’s achievements a year on from the national elections.

“We can resolve some delays but not all of them. We have dealt with 50 per cent of the cases but new ones keep coming in, especially with the current anti-drug campaign. The long-term plan is to create regional appeal courts to help speed up the process.

“In addition, we have created some 68 justice centres to deal with cases at the grassroots level and encourage out of court resolutions. In the future, justice centres will be created in all districts and towns throughout the country.

“In the last year, we have started building appeal courts in three provinces – Tbong Khmum, Battambang and Preah Sihanouk. The construction is 80 per cent complete and it’s expected that they will be opened next year,” he said.

In late March, Be Tea Leng, the deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, said there were 31,400 inmates, 2,440 of whom were women, and that two-thirds of those detained had not yet been convicted by the courts.

Of the total, 7,767 have been placed in pre-trial detention, 3,643 charged, 10,890 tried and 9,137 have received final verdicts from the highest court.

General Department of Prisons spokesman Nuth Savana said the slowness to convict had caused prisons to become overcrowded, and it was increasingly difficult to manage inmates, some of whom had been waiting for a hearing for eight or nine months.

“Expediting these cases would be extremely helpful because the charged people won’t have to stay so long in prison. When cases are drawn-out, it’s detrimental to the interests of the accused or charged people who have not yet been found guilty.

“But because they were detained by investigating judges, they have to wait in prison for a hearing. When the courts speed up the processing of cases, it will improve the situation in prisons throughout the country,” he said.

Soeung Sen Karuna, the senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said judicial institutions should address the issue immediately, as overcrowding affected the rights of the inmates.

“It affects their rights and freedoms because pre-trial detention is lasting too long. Judicial institutions ought to have a clear mechanism to handle cases more quickly,” he said.

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