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Prisons ‘overflowing’ with pre-trial inmates

Prison overcrowding and pre-trial detention times remain an interconnected issue in Cambodia, with a backlog of prisoners causing court dates to be delayed.

Further, an estimated 15,000 people remain in prisons built to accommodate 8,500 individuals, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Cambodia.

To combat such judicial ills, the Cambodian Court of Appeal and United Nations Human Rights representatives kicked off a three-day training session yesterday in an effort to improve judicial operations and protection of children’s rights in the legal system.

The 118 participants travelling from all provinces congregated in Phnom Penh for the first meeting of its kind, according to James Heenan, representative of the OHCHR, to gather prison directors, court presidents and chief prosecutors to improve the judicial process.

President of the Appeal Court You Bunleng said that skewed communications caused gross confusion in the judicial system, especially when it came to pre-trial detention.

“We have lack of information sharing among the court, prison and human rights NGOs,” said Bunleng. “Some cases have been heard by the Appeal Court but the information does not reach prisons or the filing documents are not kept properly.”

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights’ monitoring project has also revealed a disappointing track record in court operations.

“People are being held for very long periods and in some sense the crime can be minor and the pre-trial detention is serving as punishment,” Ou Virak, president of CCHR, said.

Since August, the Ministry of Justice has provided more than 50 additional judges and deputy prosecutors to courts across the country in a bid to decrease long waits for court hearings and ensure effective trials.

“The new judges reduce the backlog of cases,” Sam Prachea Manith, director at the Ministry of Justice, said yesterday, complimenting the effectiveness of increasing human resources in the judicial system.

To contact the reporters on this story: Rachel Will at rachel.will@phnompenhpost.com and Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Meas Sokchea

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