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.


  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • CNRP activist freed; Sam Rainsy pledges return to Kingdom

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday released former CNRP activist Oeur Narith on bail after the court ended its questioning on suspicion of receiving money from abroad and plotting to overthrow the government, according to the authorities. National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun confirmed