A Senior Ministry of Justice official has said that the ministry will investigate claims made by rights group ADHOC about “serious delays” in court cases. Should the findings be based on evidence, the ministry will take action.

Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said on January 3 that the ministry has seen a report from ADHOC which was based on court proceedings that were monitored by their observers. He questioned the quality of the findings and the qualifications of the monitors.

The report was issued on January 2, and was the result of ADHOC’s monitoring of 175 court cases in the capital and 19 provinces in 2023.

Among the cases, 79 related to human rights, 32 related to land rights and 65 involved women and children. 137 of them are criminal cases, while 38 others are misdemeanours. These cases involve 1,165 accused and 452 complainants; with both of them victims, according to the report.

The report said the accused were being held in pre-trial detention in 142 of the 175 cases, with 80 per cent of them having been in this position for a period of between 6 and 24 months. 

In addition, the accused had to wait from one to two hours behind the times set for their hearings. The report added that 90 per cent of all cases were still awaiting a final decision by the court.

ADHOC recommended that the ministry examine the common practices of judges and prosecutors, with relation to articles 208 and 209 of criminal procedure law, which outline the period of pre-trial detention. 

It also urged disciplinary action against any judge or prosecutor who is late for work. 

Malin cast doubt on the report’s findings, questioning whether the ADHOC monitoring group had undergone consultation with legal experts before releasing the report. Regarding claims of pre-trial detentions which exceeded six months, he explained that this is permitted by law. 

“It is not an absolute violation of rights if a suspect is detained for more than six months. There are several concerns about their understanding of the law, procedures, legal consultation best practices and the people involved. Unfortunately, the report is not clear,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the ministry will look into it. If the claims are found to be based on facts, we will examine ways to resolve the issue,” he added.

He urged the rights group to provide any evidence they had found of any instance where a court or judge had violated any procedure or acted unprofessionally, noting that the ministry would take immediate action.

He also suggested that each of the civil society organisations working the rights sector should cooperate more closely with the authorities and strive to provide acceptable evidence if they discovered any misconduct.