Fair Trial Rights Videos

Building the Capacity and Garnering Support for Judicial Reforms in Cambodia

Challenge

The functioning of the judiciary has been among the major human rights concerns in Cambodia for some time particularly since a well-functioning judiciary is imperative for rule of law. The Cambodian civil society sector and donor community have promoted legal and judicial reform for many years but have struggled to achieve significant progress. Although there have been steady improvements in the adherence to some of the procedures that underpin fair trial rights, many areas of concern remain. One of the major issues that affect fair trial rights in Cambodia is the lack of separation of powers and the continued influence that the executive exerts on the judiciary. There is a widening gap between the guarantees and standards set out in the Constitution in terms of the status of the judiciary and the guarantee for fair trial rights. As this gap widens, the space for criticism and debate is shrinking, as the courts are used as political tools to silence opposition and dissent.

CCHR’s Trial Monitoring Project, first introduced in August 2009, monitors criminal trials in Cambodia so as to assess their adherence to Cambodian and international fair trial standards.  The information collected through monitoring is intended first to serve as a reference from which to implement reform of the legal and judicial sector and as a tool to bring about increased respect for fair trial rights. The priority issues found include the continued lack of independence of the judiciary including common political influence of the courts, high levels of pre-trial detention, disregard for the presumption of innocence, the failure of judges to explain defendants’ rights, low levels of legal representation, and disregard for juveniles’ specific rights.

According to CCHR’s analysis, one of the main causes of the limited progress made in terms of judicial reforms in Cambodia is that, despite the widespread dissatisfaction with the judicial system, ordinary citizens have not yet mobilized support for legal and judicial reform. Moreover, a challenging aspect of the promotion of an independent judiciary is the lack of trust in the Cambodian justice system and the lack of knowledge and understanding of individual’s right to a fair trial and their importance in ensuring greater respect for human rights and the rule of law. The lack of demand for reform from a varied and vocal section of the electorate seems to have contributed to the lack of responsiveness from the Royal Government of Cambodia. 

Program Summary

To address this challenge CCHR will produce a series of four short video clips on fair trial rights as tools to build capacity and generate interest in the judicial system within the Cambodian population.

The overall goal of the project is to improve the respect of individuals’ fair trial rights in order to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the respect for the rule of law in Cambodia. To achieve this goal, the Project has two main objectives:

  • to build capacity of the Cambodian people in the rights they are entitled to and that are guaranteed at the international and domestic level;
  • to increase awareness of the judiciary and the judicial process within the population so as to garner interest in the necessity for judicial reforms.

The video clips will focus on four specific trial rights:

  1. the right to be presumed innocent;
  2. the right to legal representation;
  3. the right to liberty; and
  4. juveniles’ rights.

The video clips will be between 5 and 12 minutes each. Footage will include interviews with some key stakeholders such as lawyers, judges, human rights defenders, former inmates, prisoner officials and CCHR teams. A detailed screenplay will be developed in partnership with a videographer specifically hired for this project. CCHR intends to broadly distribute the video clips through different channels (online and printed DVD copies). It will organize trainings on fair trial rights with specific relevant communities and different public screenings. CCHR will also organize a screening along with a press conference to launch the video and share the videos with its broad network of partners, The videos will also be posted on CCHR and Sithi websites, and on CCHR’s Facebook page (followed by more than 100,000 persons) and Twitter account.

Impact

The issue of fair trial rights can be considered complex and difficult to understand because of the population’s lack of trust in the judiciary. As such, creating video clips on fair trial rights will overcome these obstacles by making the issue accessible, understandable, and enjoyable. In addition, through the different ways of dissemination of the videos, the project will manage to reach out to a wide range of the population: rural communities through trainings, students through screenings at university, youth and urban population through social media and the media thanks to the organization of a press conference for the launch of the videos. Video clips have proven to be successful advocacy and capacity building tools. CCHR’s choice of video clips to strengthen the respect of fair trial rights is based on the consideration that video clips are a tool that is accessible and that can reach out to a broad and diverse population. 

The project is also sustainable as video clips on fair trial rights will not become outdated and will remain available for anyone who will see a benefit in using them. The video clips can benefit other actors in their own capacity building and advocacy efforts. Other civil society actors or community leaders or even agents of the judiciary and enforcement (judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and police) will be able to use the video clips themselves. The use of video clips allows reaching out to a wide range of people and broadens the impact of the project. Overall, the project will benefit individuals appearing in courts and empower people in claiming their rights, thus benefiting the population of Cambodia as CCHR expects to gather popular support and create a momentum for judicial reforms.

According to the WJP Rule of Law Index, Cambodia ranked 14 out of 14 in the regional ranking for Factor 8 “Criminal Justice.” In addition, Cambodia scored zero (the lowest score) in the Delivery of Justice sub-factor. Such outcomes are not surprising considering the functionality and efficiency of the criminal justice system. The criminal investigation and adjudication system remain strongly influenced by government powers and corruption, which leads to unequal treatment and discrimination, and reflects on the equal protection of individuals. In this regard, due process of law and the rights of the accused are in danger.

By building the capacity of the population, the project will ensure court officials and law enforcement officials are discouraged from violating an individual’s fair trial rights. As such, this project will strengthen the already existing efforts of the Trial Monitoring Project to ensure justice is delivered in respect of fair trial rights and due process.

Partners

CCHR will share the video clips with its domestic and international network, as mentioned above (including other NGOs working on judicial sector reform, civil society, universities, etc.) to ensure the video clips are used by a broad range of actors and thus have a greater impact. In addition, CCHR will also share the videos with judicial officers. CCHR Trial Monitoring Project has developed constructive cooperation with the courts being monitored and the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia. To continue this cooperation, CCHR staff will share the project and present the videos to them. 

Project Details

Program Status:Active

Program Type:Grantee

Region:East Asia & Pacific

Program Countries:Cambodia

Rule of Law Index Factors: Criminal Justice (Factor 8)

Issue Areas: Human Rights, Judiciary, and Media.