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Volunteer lawyers to clear court backlogs

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Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) had agreed to help the Ministry of Justice clear a backlog of cases at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and provincial courts. Heng Chivoan

Volunteer lawyers to clear court backlogs

Up to 400 volunteer lawyers from the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) will help to clear a backlog of nearly 40,000 cases by defending the rights of charged persons or prisoners, said Legal Aid Department head Var Pisey.

Pisey told The Post on Sunday that BAKC had agreed to help the Ministry of Justice clear a backlog of cases at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and provincial courts.

But volunteer lawyers would join to help settle only crimes, misdemeanours and cases involving minors.

“We also issued a notice asking our volunteer lawyers to solve [the cases] urgently because the courts in the capital and the 24 provinces are short on lawyers. Sometimes, in a day, we attend 10 cases,” he said.

Pisey said so far the organisation has helped the government settle cases at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the provincial courts involving defending the rights of charged persons and prisoners who are poor and unable to obtain legal representation.

He said from early January to late June, volunteer lawyers had already taken up nearly 3,000 cases. BAKC has more than 200 volunteer lawyers. There are 25 courts in the capital and provinces.

“We are cooperating with the Ministry of Justice on the campaign to clear the case backlog but more volunteer lawyers are needed. So the number of lawyers involved has increased from 300 to 400 lawyers,” he said.

Pisey said the courts are the ones to ask for lawyers and the bar assigns them to help settle the cases as requested.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on Sunday that the participation is important to speed up the process.

“Without lawyers, a hearing cannot proceed, thereby leading to a backlog. The participation of all parties, including the bar, judicial officials and drug laboratories is of extreme importance,” Malin said.

The court commission created four working groups to tackle a backlog of cases. Malin said the working groups are tallying the results across the country. When they have a final number and they will make it public at the end of this month.

Minister of Justice Koeut Rith announced the launch of the campaign to settle a backlog of cases at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and provincial courts on May 18 after facing nearly 40,000 pending criminal cases.

He expects that the campaign will reduce the backlog by 50-70 per cent in six months.

BAKC also issued a notice on June 17 for legal representation to defend cases during the campaign.

It called on its members and trainee lawyers to join in defending the rights of charged persons and prisoners.

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