Long-awaited regional appeal courts, intended to ease a logjam of pending cases caused by inmate transportation issues, will be unveiled in three provinces next year, Ministry of Justice officials said yesterday.
The first of seven courts mandated to be built by 2018 are scheduled to launch in Tbong Khmum, Preah Sihanouk and Battambang.
Chin Malin, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said in announcing the plans that no exact locations had yet been set for the physical structures.
“We are still studying the locations for the courts in each province, because we want people to travel easily to them,” he said.
“We need to have physical infrastructure and human resources before we have them.
“Each regional appeal court can cover three or four provinces, which will be listed in a royal decree,” Malin added, referring to the articles set forth in new laws governing the judicial system that were passed earlier this year.
Rights groups have criticised the lack of transportation for prisoners to the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh, a reality they say has denied prisoners due process.
“All 24 provinces use only one appeal court, which makes all appeal cases delayed, and the court can’t review all complaints fairly and in equal time,” Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor with rights group Licadho, said yesterday.
“Prisoners staying in [more remote] provinces lack the chance to join in their appeal hearings.
They sometimes need to pay out of their own pockets for transportation. This shows the lack of justice for them.”
The creation of the new courts will go a long way toward solving that problem by “bringing public legal services closer to the people”, said Sam Prachea Manith, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
Manith added, however, without elaborating, that more needs to be done for that to happen.
The government first announced plans to create a series of regional appeal courts in 2012.
The Post has previously reported that appellants can wait up to five years or more to have their cases heard due to backlog at the Kingdom’s sole appeal court in Phnom Penh.
Additionally, 69 per cent of cases at the court are heard in absentia due to prisoners being unable to travel to the capital when summonsed, often multiple times, for their hearings.