The Trial Monitoring Project (the “Project”) was set up to monitor criminal trials in Cambodian courts and to assess their adherence to international and Cambodian fair trial standards. The Project uses the findings to facilitate increased respect for fair trial rights and to advocate improvements for court practices.Why?
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia provides that Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in all relevant international instruments. This includes the right to a fair trial, more specifically defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as the right of every person accused of a crime to receive a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. In practice, the Cambodian courts are seen to be non-independent, incompetent and biased. The courts are considered to be under political control, with the executive branch dominating the legislature and the judiciary - there is no genuine separation of powers. Politically-motivated cases have been brought against opposition politicians, land-rights demonstrators and those who speak out in defense of human rights. Conversely, those with government connections or positions of authority have enjoyed impunity, even when they have been accused of committing serious offenses. Moreover many judges have very limited legal education due to the prolonged civil war. The court is contaminated by profound mistrust and corruption. These problems need to be resolved to improve the fairness and efficiency of trials in Cambodia. How?
The overall goal of the Project is to improve the procedures and practices of courts in Cambodia, resulting in full adherence to fair trial standards in criminal trials.
The Project is implemented through the following three activities:
- Trial monitors monitor criminal trials to obtain quantitative and qualitative data with a focus on both procedural and substantive elements by using specific checklist - an instrument to measure adherence to fair trial rights.
- The Project team produces annual reports regarding the respect of fair trial rights at the courts monitored. CCHR also produces additional outputs such as, briefing notes, press releases, factsheets, legal analyses, in response to developments in the justice sector, including at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
- The Project facilitates and organizes capacity-building workshops on fair trial rights and trial monitoring methodology for other NGOs, university students and judicial stakeholders.
- The Project staff also engages in dialogue with key judicial and other stakeholders - including the monitored courts and the Ministry of Justice - to share ideas and raise awareness about the Project’s findings in regards to fair trial rights
From its launch in August 2009 to the end of 2012, the Project was focused on the Phnom Penh Capital Court of First Instance, and the Kandal, Banteay Meanchey and Rattanakiri Provincial Courts. Since March 2013, with a view to assess how fair trial rights standards are implemented on a higher level, the Project has started to monitor the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal. To date the Project has achieved the following as part of its work to assess adherence of the Cambodian courts to fair trial rights standards and principles:Documentation:
- Checklists: a trial monitoring checklist sets out questions which allow trial monitors to record adherence to fair trial standards at the various stages of the trial. The questions reflect the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code 2007 and international law. This enables the trial monitors to complete the checklist directly in the courtroom to ensure the collection of accurate data. There are two types of checklists: one for the Court of First Instance and another one for the Court of Appeal. The main difference is that the checklist used for the Court of Appeal focuses on both procedural and substantive elements of the appeal hearing.
- Checklist guidance: detailed checklist guidance was compiled to provide further information to trial monitors about the legal basis and meaning of each question in the Checklists, and how to answer them. This guidance is vital for ensuring a comprehensive understanding of each question and serves to ensure consistency amongst trial monitors, present and future.
- Law bank: This tool outlines the national and international law underpinning each questions in the Checklists.
- Code of conduct: This document establishes the obligation of non-interference, objectivity and confidentiality to which the trial monitors are bound.
(Note: All of these above-mentioned documents are available at http://tmp.sithi.org/)Database:
Regarding the Courts of First Instance, to date, the Project has monitored 1,722 trials in Phnom Penh Court of First Instance, 505 trials in the Kandal Provincial Court, 252 trials in the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court and 65 trials in the Ratanakiri Provincial Court, and 14 other trials related to human trafficking and high profile cases in the Courts of First Instance throughout Cambodia. The data collected from these trials has been recorded on the Trial Monitoring Database, which was publically launched on 26 September 2013. Data collected from 204 cases at the Court of Appeal will be recorded in another purposely-designed database. For further information on the Trial Monitoring Database, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCHR has released six bi-annual reports on fair trial rights at the Cambodian Courts of First Instance, and one annual report on fair trial rights at the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal. The Reports on the Project findings have been distributed to the RGC, relevant ministries, universities, judicial stakeholders, and international organizations.
As of now, the Project has produced two key handbooks: Handbook on Fair Trial Rights and Trial Monitoring in Cambodia in March 2012 and Handbook on Pre-trial and Trial Procedures in the Cambodian criminal courts in August 2013.Poster:
The Project has developed a poster on specific accused rights under Cambodian and international law. While posters have already been pinned in the three waiting rooms of the accused at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court and three posters have already pinned in the Court of Appeal, other posters will be displayed at other monitored courts, specific police stations, and jails across the country.Dialogue:
- Informing the courts of the Project: The presidents of Phnom Penh Capital Court, Kandal, Banteay Meanchey, Ratanakiri Provincial Courts of First Instance, and the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal have been informed about the Project implementation since its commencement.
- Consultation prior to release of reports, handbooks, and posters with court officials and the Ministry of Justice’s representatives.
- Conducting dialogue on the report’s findings: After publication, the Project distributes the reports to relevant judicial stakeholders to present and provide further explanation of the data, analysis, and recommendations addressing the issues of fair trial rights concerns.
The target audience of the monitoring, reporting and dialogue activities of the Project is the monitored courts, the judiciary as a whole, and judicial stakeholders. The intended beneficiaries of the Project are the general public through assisting them in the continued efforts to build trust and respect for the judiciary, and improving the credibility of the court process.