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New judges for beleaguered courts

New judges for beleaguered courts

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3-story-1-CROP-CLOSE-TO-KING.jpg

As the Kingdom's judiciary sags under the weight of thousands of unheard cases, recent graduates from the Royal School of Judges have been brought in to help carry the load

HENG CHIVOAN

King Norodom Sihamoni, shown here in a file photo, has signed off on the appointment of 55 new judges.

A MASSIVE backlog in the court system has forced the Supreme Council of the Magistracy to appoint 55 judicial graduates as judges and deputy prosecutors at 21 municipal and provincial courts across the Kingdom.

The appointees, recent graduates from the Royal School of Judges, were appointed in a July 12 royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni, chairman of the council, following a request from Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana.

A further decree also allowed six judges and prosecutors to continue their work beyond the age of retirement to help handle the growing backlog of court cases. Both decisions were approved by the council on July 30.

Hanrot Raken, a member of the council and general prosecutor of the Appeals Court, said that the courts did not have enough judges and prosecutors to handle the huge number of cases being filed.

"We still need more judges and prosecutors to help the courts function," he told the Post Wednesday. "Currently, judges and prosecutors can't cope with the courts' demands."

Hanrot Raken said the Appeals Court received around 2,000 criminal and civil cases annually and said the number will only rise.

 "I see the judges and prosecutors working hard," he said, although "their implementation is not yet 100 percent accurate".

Phnom Penh Municipal Court President Chev Keng said the court currently has 16 judges and eight prosecutors on staff, with each judge handling between 600 to 700 cases annually.

"Previously each judge handled more than 1,000 cases per year. Now this has dropped to about 700, but we still need more judges," Chev Keng told the Post, adding that the ideal workload was around 200 cases per year.

"I think every province faces the same shortfall of judges."

Iv Horng, director of the council's administration department, said overall about 110 graduates from the Royal School of Judges have been offered jobs and that around 300 judges and prosecutors are currently employed in courts across the country.

"Judges and prosecutors who have served for more than four years get rotated to another location," Iv Horng said. "Some complained to the council that they were serving for a long time in each place, which can introduce bias."

During Prime Minister Hun Sen's "iron fist" campaign a few years ago, some judges and prosecutors were sacked and suspended from their positions for taking bribes and lacking the necessary qualifications.

Peung Yok Hiep, executive director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said the lack of judges will keep more suspects in pretrial detention, a violation of suspects' rights.

"Previously some provincial courts have borrowed judges from neighboring provinces to help try cases," she said.

"The law requires three judges for fair trials in criminal cases, so it is clearly necessary to employ more."

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