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Backlogged court cases procedures kept for now

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Inmates are transported to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in January. Hong Menea

Backlogged court cases procedures kept for now

As the campaign to clear case backlog aimed at addressing prison overcrowding has ended, the procedures, measures and guidelines used will continue to be employed to resolve such issues.

Ministry of Justice secretary of state and spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on July 11 that Cambodia’s high prison population was a result of effective law enforcement and crackdowns on crime by authorities across the country.

Malin, however, acknowledged that the capacity of the courts and prisons remained limited compared to the number of offences currently being committed and people being detained.

“We have cracked down on many crimes and our prison capacity is still limited, while our court system has not yet [efficiently] responded to the increase in the number of [case files].

“We resolved a lot of cases with the campaign, and while we have not seen much easing on the prison population, it has prevented it from increasing beyond what is acceptable,” he said.

Malin said that without the campaign, the number of inmates in prisons would have doubled or even tripled.

General Department of Prisons (GDI) spokesman Nuth Savana said there were currently around 38,000 inmates being held in 28 prisons and correctional centres nationwide.

With 54 per cent incarcerated for crimes related to drugs, the GDI is rehabilitating prisoners, ensuring they will not reoffend and integrating them back into society, he said.

According to Malin, the ministry’s campaign, launched on May 18, 2020 and finished on June 17 the following year, lasted 395 days.

Congested criminal cases at the prosecution, investigation and trial stages had been handled at courts in the capital and provinces across the country, with 37,998 cases or 96 per cent of case backlog cleared during the period.

Courts across Cambodia also handled 62,887 new criminal cases, equivalent to 78 per cent of new cases.

Malin said that while the campaign had lasted a year, it did not mean there was no further need for the mechanisms implemented.

During the period of the campaign, the ministry had set out a number of guidelines for the courts to consider and implement to resolve case backlog based on the legal process at all stages of proceedings.

“These guidelines must continue to be implemented. The courts must continue to follow what was recommended.

“So even though the campaign is over, the measures that set out the guiding principles will continue to be implemented until we establish a permanent mechanism in our [judicial] reform programme, such as non-judicial dispute resolution,” he said.

Malin said that until the new mechanism was in place, the guidelines would remain.

“The number of detainees in our prisons is high, but without the campaign, this would have doubled or even tripled, which our prison capacity couldn’t handle,” he said.

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