Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CCHR probes legal rights

CCHR probes legal rights

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Centre for Human Rights is questioning whether the Court of Appeal is respecting the rights of suspects to a fair trial. Hean Rangsey

CCHR probes legal rights

In a newsletter released on Wednesday, NGO Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) said suspects’ rights to a fair trial have not always been respected by the Court of Appeal.

Specifically, CCHR said rights to defence lawyers and the right to be present at appeal court hearings were not fully respected.

As part of a fair trial project, CCHR monitored 218 cases involving 316 suspects at the Court of Appeal from January to December of last year.

The NGO said one positive point it witnessed was all suspects in criminal cases and juvenile suspects had defence lawyers.

But 80 people, or 25 per cent of suspects in misdemeanour cases did not have defence lawyers.

Citing Article 301 of the Criminal Code, CCHR said the right to a defence lawyer is compulsory for felony charges and juvenile suspects.

“While this means that Cambodian legislation adequately upholds the right to legal representation for juveniles and individuals accused of felonies, it falls short of international human rights standards for cases involving any offence other than a felony [for example, a misdemeanour].

“International human rights law does not make any distinction between offence levels, and instead requires the right to legal representation to be universally applicable, irrelevant of the offence,” it said.

Regarding the absence of suspects at hearings, CCHR said 59 out of 316 suspects, or 18 per cent, were not present during the monitoring period, or they were tried in absentia.

Such a practice was not in line with international human rights standards, it said.

In some cases, the absences were a result of suspects not receiving trial dates or lacking means to transport themselves to court.

“Worryingly, CCHR’s monitoring found six defendants where there was a conflict of interest. Specifically, the lawyer represented multiple defendants in the same case. For instance, defendants provided their answers to other defendants during the hearing,” it said.

CCHR recommended improving transportation services for suspects and delaying hearings when the suspects are not present.

Judges should also postpone hearings if suspects do not have defence lawyers, regardless of the nature of their charges, CCHR said.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin said the government’s ability to aid the poor in these situations is limited because it lacks money, human resources, and lawyers.

He said lawyers sometimes represented multiple suspects in the same case because of these deficiencies.

In Cambodia, only suspects in criminal cases and minors are legally required to have a lawyer, he said.

“Even though we are lacking resources, we have been increasing our legal aid annually.

“For example, this year we have 1.6 billion riel [$400,000] to spend on aid, an increase from 1.2 billion riel. Previously, we only had 900 million riel,” he said.

Malin said the number of defence lawyers for poor people also increased to more than 300 this year.

He said he expects the budget for legal aid and lawyers to increase, in line with the government’s ability to assist poor people, women, and ethnic minority groups.


  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and