Cambodia - annual report 2018

Discussions between IRZ experts and participants in the working group at the court of first instance in Phnom Penh: Sean Kung (on the left), Deputy Head of Department for Court Organisation at the Cambodian Ministry of Justice
Discussions between IRZ experts and participants in the working group at the court of first instance in Phnom Penh: Sean Kung (on the left), Deputy Head of Department for Court Organisation at the Cambodian Ministry of Justice

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Cambodia is still suffering under the consequences of its recent history. The peace process and overcoming the war crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge are extremely arduous. It is one of the world‘s most impoverished countries that faces challenges such as institutional corruption, inadequate competitiveness, bureaucratic institutional structures and a weak judicial system. Cambodia‘s economy is now growing at a steady pace, although at a comparatively low level, whereby the tourism industry is expanding quickly.

The parliamentary elections in July were the most significant political event in the reporting year. The Cambodian People‘s Party (CPP) won the elections, confirming the long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen in office. The largest opposition party (CNRP) was disbanded by the Supreme Court in the run-up to the elections, prompting fierce international criticism and casting doubts on the credibility of the vote. In response, the EU and the United States withdrew their support for the elections.

The efforts by international supporters to develop a legal system containing principles of the rule of law are therefore more topical than ever. Sustained reform measures for the creation of an independent and efficient judicial system are indispensable to ensure Cambodia‘s continued development.

Overall Concept

The IRZ provides counselling to support the necessary reforms, especially in the areas of modernising court organisation, where it prioritises the criminal justice system.

The issues associated with court organisation have been addressed for two years now in cooperation with the Cambodian Ministry of Justice and the courts and aim primarily to establish an electronic case management system within the Cambodian criminal justice system in the long term.

So far, the cooperation has seen the production of a process flow chart for organising the main proceedings in the courts of first instance within criminal law (local courts); it was prepared in English and has since been translated into Khmer. This flow chart can be used as a basis to discuss the content, technical and financial parameters for introducing an electronic case management system.

Moreover, a review was conducted on potential synergy with an electronic registration system for court records that has already been installed. Implemented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the majority of criminal courts, it has been used for statistical and reporting purposes so far. Seeking to optimise utilisation of the work results acquired to date, the IRZ developed an overall concept for the Cambodian Ministry of Justice that included the existing electronic tools and that sought to expand the IT-assisted approach throughout the court organisation. If and to what extend this overall concept will be implemented depends on the decisions made by the persons in charge.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Administration of Justice

  • Workshop to finalise the process flow chart for criminal law
  • Local court session and training for legal practitioners in Phnom Penh with the department at the Ministry of Justice responsible for court organisation, as well as with judges at courts of first instance
  • Workshop and discussions with legal practitioners
  • Visit to the pilot court (Local Court in Phnom Penh) to discuss the IT requirements for an electronic case management system in Phnom Penh
  • Workshop to present the concept paper on the IT requirements for developing an electronic case management system in Phnom Penh

Outlook

There are plans to continue cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Local Court in Phnom Penh in the coming year. Attempts will be made to liaise with the responsible department at the Ministry of Justice in order to include introduction of the electronic case management system as a long-term project within the government strategy expected for early 2019 and hence to ensure that the project is awarded official status. This would facilitate both implementation and financing, as well as raising the public visibility of the project.