Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Capital lacks lawyers: study

Capital lacks lawyers: study

Capital lacks lawyers: study

More than one-third of persons charged in the capital last year had no legal representation and more than 40 per cent of that total were on trial for felonies, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights found in its 2011Trial Monitoring Project of Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

As well as the lack of legal representation, excessive pre-trial detention, a failure to post notice of trials and the judges’ use of mobile phones during hearings breached basic fair trial rights of the accused, the rights group said.

“First of all, it is about the commitment of the court itself,” project coordinator Mang Monika said. “It is compulsory under the Criminal Procedure Code that the court must assign every accused a lawyer.”

An "unacceptable practice"

Judges often skirt this issue by assigning one lawyer to a group of accused –  an unacceptable practice, Mang Monika said.

The rate of legal representation has not significantly improved since CCHR began monitoring Phnom Penh’s court of first instance in 2009, she said, adding this was especially worrying in felony cases, which carry minimum sentences of five years in prison and maximum terms of life imprisonment.

Judge Seng Neang, at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said that CCHR had previously met with court officials about the use of mobile phones during trials, a practice the rights group says jeopardises the quality of trials.

“Such habits have reduced,” Seng Neang said. “We know answering phones affects a hearing and we ask judges to turn their phones on to ‘silent’, but there are still urgent things to handle during hearings,” he said.

“Judges have many files to work on, so they have to answer phones quickly. If they turn their phones off, it also affects their work,” the judge added.

Director of Phnom Penh Municipal Court Chiv Keng said he was too busy to speak to the press yesterday and Justice Ministry Officials could not be contacted for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]
With assistance from Chhay Channyda

MOST VIEWED

  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group