The Workshop on the Law and Human Rights [3-5 SEP 1999]
The Liberal Democratic tradition in Cambodia is less than
seven years old; Thus the new legal order builds on the liberal
democratic foundation is young and under developed. Only a very
few laws have been passed through the legislature. The law
drafting and the passing of laws are taking place in a very slow
way. The Penal Code is under preparation and the Criminal
procedure code it is said may be passed very soon. A few other
laws have been passed.
The procedural laws relating to fair trial have not yet been
discussed or passed. The trial procedure remains more less like
it was before the promulgation of the new Constitution in 1993
September. Some improvements of practices have taken place due to
education of judges and lawyers and also due to a change in the
understanding of the role of the Ministry of Justice.
Prior to 1993 and immediately there after, the Ministry of
Justice dominated over the judiciary and influenced every aspect
of the judicial system. Now, there is the understanding that
Ministry of Justice has only an administrative role and the
judiciary must be left to function independently. Though the
realisation of this practically may take even more time, the very
changes in the attitudes that is taking place now, can have very
serious implications for the betterment of the system. We welcome
these changes and call upon the process of speeding up these
'People who come before courts need to be defended and given
all the legal system they are entitled to…'
However, as we await these changes, the people who come before
courts need to be defended and given all the legal system they
are entitled to. This is primarily the duty of lawyers and
lawyers must rise up to occasion and do their duties towards
their clients. The limitations involved in the absence of laws
and the hard conditions that exist due to a lack of a proper
system must not be used as excuses; instead the lawyers must
creatively intervene to use every possibility to help their
clients and also to help the courts to be truly independent
The most important agent of the change in the legal order at
this moment in Cambodia is the lawyers themselves. They must now
show that they are capable of doing their basic duties as
lawyers. Given the vacuum of laws, the lawyers must approach all
their tasks pragmatically. They must involve practical ways to
gain respect for the rights of their clients and also to gain
respect for their profession. They must be brave, courageous, and
bold. They must work hard and try to win the public support for
rapid development of legal assistance to people of Cambodia.
Despite of the frustrating circumstances of the situation they
must always be enthusiastic and highly motivated. They must
realise that all that they do to help their clients will help to
establish legal practices that will be established for the
benefit of others in future.
There are still many practices relating to arrest and
detention that are bad and illegal practices. Despite the 48
hours rule for detention in police custody, often people are kept
for longer time. Once they are produced in courts, they are often
kept for further time unnecessarily. Bail should be given in
liberal manner and unnecessary detention before trials must be
avoided. The lawyers must take up these issues, in particular
cases. They must also take up this as an issue and work towards
change of attitudes and practices.
The complaints of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment
are many and these must be brought to the notice of authorities
and the public.
The legal profession is very much linked with the judicial
profession. If the judges are frustrated due to lack of proper
salaries, proper training, and other facilities, this adversely
affect the functioning of courts and the functioning of the legal
system as a whole. Above all the judges need to be given a proper
salary. We know that giving a good salary alone will not stop
corruption. On the other hand, without providing a proper salary
the society can not expect a proper service from ill paid judges.
Other methods must be developed to monitor the proper functioning
of the judiciary.
Of particular importance is the rights of Children who are
arrested and detained. On this issue we have made a separate
statement due to the grave importance of the issue.
'The lawyers must consider the plight of their poor clients
and do their utmost to provide a quality legal service.'
Legal aid lawyers are particularly concerned with the poor.
The poor are also helpless and they are very much in need of
vigorous defence by the lawyers. The lawyers must consider the
plight of their poor clients and do their utmost to provide a
quality legal service. This is very essential in dealing in
protecting and promotion of human rights. Thus legal aid lawyers
have a very grave responsibility.