Court President Chiv Keng credits greater efficiency and the addition
of more judges and prosecutors for the rise in closed cases
A TOP Phnom Penh Municipal Court official said Monday greater efficiency and an increase in judges has seen a dramatic reduction in outstanding cases this year.
Chiv Keng, president of the Municipal Court, said despite a normal annual case load, the court has been able to render more judgments than last year.
"By the end of 2008, we will have about 6,500 unresolved cases. At the end of 2007, that number was 9,200, he told the Post on Monday.
"This does not mean that we've had fewer cases this year. We received a similar number of cases to previous years, but this year we worked efficiently and increased the number of judges and prosecutors," he said.
Chiv Keng said the Municipal Court on average receives between 3,000 and 5,000 new cases each year.
"We have solved more court cases this year than last year," he said.
The court upped its number of judges in 2008 from nine to 16, Chiv Keng said, adding that plans are in place to reach a target of 45 judges in coming months, as well as 25 prosecutors, up from the current number of eight.
WE HAVE SOLVED MORE COURT CASES THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR.
He added that space has become an issue for the court, which plans to build a new six-storey building at its current location.
In its latest annual report, the Court Watch Project-conducted between October 2006 and September 2007 by the Center for Social Development-found that the court had only two courtrooms, in which it heard more than 884 criminal cases within the reporting period.
The report said the court heard an average of three criminal cases each day, with half the trials monitored lasting less than 20 minutes.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director for the Cambodian Defenders Project, said he saw improvement in the court system but that there was much work still to be done.
"The court should grant greater independence to its judges so that they can make their own decisions about court cases," he said.
Chiv Keng acknowledged that Cambodian courts are not perfect and that many years would be needed to initiate improvements.
"We are not 100 percent perfect now. But we have made many reforms, and we don't hear as much criticism about the court being corrupt as we did in the last three or four years," he said.
He added that the court now has a mechanism whereby people can report inactivity or any other abuses of power.
Chiv Keng said Cambodia needs up to 300 additional judges and prosecutors to serve throughout the country.
Cambodia currently has only about 200 judges and prosecutors nationwide, he said.