The Ministry of Justice yesterday held the first of what it said would be regular forums soliciting the input of civil society on judicial reforms, and promised a new measure that it maintained would streamline the courts’ workflow.
Citing widespread frustration among citizens, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that Cambodia’s courts would embrace government calls for reform in an effort to restore the public’s faith, and promised a new case management system that some observers dismissed as an unsubstantial concession.
“Some people accuse our justice institutions of working [slowly] and being corrupt,” Vong Vathana said. “They would change ‘Ministry of Justice’ to ‘Ministry of Injustice’, and that affects the national justice system. Now we will conduct public forums in order to make citizens have confidence in our judicial institutions.”
From now on, he said, lower courts would be required to submit a list of all of their cases to the ministry, so officials would be better able to manage them and prevent delays.
“We demand the courts list criminal and civil lawsuits to the Ministry of Justice, from the filing of the complaint . . . to the resolution of the offence, to make it easy for us to examine each case,” Vong Vathana said.
Cambodian courts are perennial targets of accusations of nepotism, bribe-taking and general ineptitude, but Chan Sotheavy, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, said that the new system – which is to be built into a website next year – would be a good step forward.
“We think that listing is the best method of justice reform . . .so we can examine all the steps of each case,” she said.
However, Chan Soveth, an investigator for rights group Adhoc, which sent a representative to the forum, said that the listing system was only a small step, and that the forum presented little in the way of real reform.
“The Ministry of Justice needs to do a lot of work on reform [if it wants] to make the citizens have confidence,” he said.