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.
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. Many judges have very limited legal
education due to the prolonged civil war. The court is contaminated by profound
mistrust and corruption. This leads to a lack of respect for the presumption of
innocence, which is a fundamental right of an accused person. These problems
need to be resolved to improve the fairness and efficiency of trials in
Cambodia. To this end, the Model Court Project was established. The Model
Court Project is a United States Agency for International Development-funded
Program on Rights and Justice, aimed at collaborating with the Royal Government
of Cambodia (“RGC”) to address problems in the Cambodian justice system.
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
trial monitoring reports per year regarding the Courts of First Instance
and annual report regarding the Court of Appeal. These reports set out the
data collected during the preceding reporting period, provide case-by-case
examples, address the relevant laws governing trials in Cambodia; and make
practical recommendations for changes in law, policy and practice;
- 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 in Cambodia.
its launch in August 2009 to the end of 2012, the Project was focusing on the
Phnom Penh Capital Court of First Instance, 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. The subject of the
trials monitored is random. For each trial attended, data is recorded directly
on the checklist. The information is limited to the trial process itself and
therefore no additional interview or dialogue take place, with the exception of
efforts made to record verdicts that are handed down after the trial.
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
- 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/)
To date, the Project has monitored 1,722 trials in Phnom Penh Court, 505 trials in the Kandal Province 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 Trial Monitoring Database, which was publically launched on 26 September 2013. Data collected 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 five bi-annual reports on fair trial rights in
Cambodia. The Reports on the Project findings have been distributed to
the RGC, relevant ministries, universities, judicial stakeholders, and international
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.
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.
- 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.
prior to release of reports, handbooks, and poster on accused rights: The
presidents of Kandal and Ratanakiri Provincial Courts, two vice presidents
of the Phnom Penh Court, judges of the Banteay Meanchey Provicial Court,
and both the President and General Prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Court of
Appeal met with the Project team and showed their efforts to cooperate
with the Project. In addition, the Project members have met with General
Director of Administration of the Ministry of Justice to discuss, on
CCHR’s request, the using of the ministry’s logo on the poster initiated by the Project.
dialogue on the report’s findings: After publication, the Project
distributes the reports to relevant judicial stakeholders together with
the requests for meetings in order 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