King Norodom Sihamoni has issued royal decrees approving the establishment of three new regional appeal courts to handle cases in designated zones from April next year. They will serve to reduce the backlog of cases in Phnom Penh.
According to four separate royal decrees signed by the King on August 17, next year there will be four appeal courts – in the capital and Battambang, Preah Sihanouk and Tbong Khmum provinces.
The royal decrees said the Battambang Appeal Court would receive cases ruled by the provincial courts of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin, Pursat and Siem Reap.
Cases ruled by the provincial courts of Kampong Speu, Kampot, Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk and Takeo will be received by the Preah Sihanouk Appeal Court.
The Tbong Khmum Appeal Court will handle cases ruled by the Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear, Prey Veng, Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng, Svay Rieng and Tbong Khmum provinces.
The Phnom Penh Appeal Court will be responsible for cases ruled by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Kandal Provincial Court.
All four courts will also receive cases returned to them by the Supreme Court.
“The regional appeal courts and the Phnom Penh Appeal Court shall proceed with the cases in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
“In the event that any regional appeal court is not functioning, the appeal of that area shall be within the jurisdiction of the Phnom Penh Appeal Court,” the royal decrees stated.
The three new courts are part of a government plan to add seven regional appeal courts across the country.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post that the regional appeal courts would bring justice services closer to the people and save them time and money.
“People will no longer have to come to Phnom Penh. The new courts will also guarantee the right of the people to obtain justice. In the past, some people have given up their right to protest because of limited time or money.
“Moreover, it will reduce the mountain of cases that result in prisons being overcrowded. The regional appeal courts will help share the cases currently being handled by the Phnom Penh Appeal Court,” he further said.
Malin said construction of the regional appeal courts was set to be completed in September, and the Phnom Penh Appeal Court would not require modification.
“In each appeal court, there will be four and five judges and four or five prosecutors, as well as more than 10 clerks,” he said.
Licadho human rights monitor Am Sam Ath said establishing regional appeal courts was a positive step.
However, he said: “Although we will have many appellate courts, if the practical implementation involves double standards, corruption or other issues, the trust of the people cannot be restored,” he said.