A senior official of the Ministry of Justice met with 30 representatives of development partners and civil societies on Wednesday with regard to the implementation of legal and judicial reforms to resolve national issues.
The discussion came as Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered relevant ministries to speed up court procedures for people detained in prisons who have not been sentenced, which has led to overcrowding.
Ministry of Justice secretary of state Chin Malin told The Post after the conference that it was a meeting of the joint technical working group formed to ensure a mechanism of discussion between the government, development partners and civil society with regard to the justice system, by exchanging ideas and setting up improvements to the Kingdom’s judicial system.
Malin said the 2014-2018 Joint Monitoring Indicators on Legal and Judicial Reform led to the start of the discussions and will continue this year until 2023. He said that each year, this discussion jointly resolved many of the judicial system’s prioritised issues.
“This discussion is held every three months to review and discuss challenges faced by the judicial system because development partners and civil society have really contributed a lot to the sector, including finances, technical aid or experts, et cetera,” he said.
He claimed that the issue of prison overcrowding and implementation of non-prison punishment was raised at the meeting, an issue which the ministry and departments have discussed for a long time.
“The mechanism of resolving the overcrowding is still moving forward. We have not stopped, as we have not achieved the goal. [We] will continue until 2023. The mechanism that we have discussed involves taking immediate steps, preliminary steps and what we do in the long-term.”
Concerning “immediate steps”, Malin said the working group must review the appropriateness of the laws to avoid injustices after court procedures have been sped up.
The review could serve as a stepping stone to move on to long-term measures which could lead to a discussion about pardon procedure and the procedure for implementation of non-prison punishment.
According to the ministry, regional appeal courts which are under construction in Battambang and Tbong Khmum provinces and expected to be completed next year will implement the updated court procedures and be equipped with improved prison facilities.
High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia (OHCHR) country representative Simon Walker said the discussion was truly meaningful and allowed relevant parties to jointly resolve the Kingdom’s judicial issues.
He expressed hope that what was raised and discussed in the meeting would be included in the reforms and resolved soon.
The OHCHR, he said, will consider relevant issues that have not made progress such as a study on the integrity of the court system in line with the government’s strategy. Although legal assistance has improved, issues such as prison overcrowding must be resolved.
According to the UN and UNHR presentations disseminated in the discussion, some achievements that had been resolved through past talks were the inclusion of disabled people’s rights to access legal services in the 2019-2023 National Strategic Plan.