Legal Understanding Topic: “COURT OF LAW”

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This week’s legal understanding program by Fresh News Agency, in collaboration with Cambodian International Cooperation Law Group, would like to bring up a topic of  “The Adjudicating Courts” to share with the public, students, as below:

According to Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, enacted in 1993, the powers that govern in the country are separated into three main powers; legislative power, executive power and judicial power. Judiciary Institution (court) is an independent institution which has the exclusive power to adjudicate all cases including Administrative cases. According to Article 3 of The Law on the Organisation of Court (ច្បាប់ស្តីពីការរៀបចំអង្គការ  តុលាការ). Judicial power has exercised through the courts which has categorized into two  levels; the lower courts which consists of First Instance Court and the higher courts which consist of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

The lower courts have been placed in all cities and provinces around the Kingdom of Cambodia which has been called “Provincial and Municipal Courts” except in Kompot and Kep provinces, where these two provinces share the same court under the name as “Kompot Provincial Court.” In principle, lower courts are also divided into various specialized courts such as Criminal court, Civil Court, Labour Court and Commerce Court. On the other hand, Military court is also included in the lower courts as it has special characteristic that deals with military related cases. There is only one Military Court and it is located in the capital city of Phnom Penh, but it has an extensive jurisdiction over all kind of military related cases in the country.

Municipal and provincial courts run by a president, vice-presidents, judges, clerks, administrative officials, accountants and other legal experts. Municipal and Provincial courts have the duty to conduct investigation and adjudicate all cases under their jurisdiction (both territorial jurisdiction and jurisdiction set forth by law). At the municipal and provincial courts, there is an institution called “Prosecution attached to the Court of First Instance” (អយ្យការអមសាលាដំបូង). Prosecution office is responsible for bringing criminal charges and law enforcement requests to the investigating and adjudicating jurisdictions, as well as performing other duties as determined by applicable law and provisions. This office is also responsible for proper legal practice development and make sure that the public order is guarantees. Prosecution office composes of the prosecutor, deputy prosecutor, court clerks, administrative officials and other legal experts.

The adjudication or decision at the municipal and provincial courts can be made by a single judge or panel of judges (consists of three judges) along with clerks (doing record keeping), the prosecutors, by complying with the regulation of civil procedure, criminal procedure or regulation of other legal proceedings. After the adjudication, municipal and provincial courts must give the final decision which can be called in Khmer as “Sarl Krorm”. Whichever parties who is unsatisfied with the decision, can raise the complaints to the appeal court which set by law.

Regarding the higher court, it is divided into two courts which are the Court of Appeal and the High Court. Court of appeal is the second level court which deals with appeal cases and complaints against the lower court’s decisions. Court of appeal is divided into Phnom Penh Court of Appeal and Local Court of Appeal, but currently, there is only Phnom Penh Court of Appeal, and act as Local Court of Appeal. Court of appeal composes of the president, vice-presidents, judges, clerks, administrative officials and other legal experts. The proceeding of the court of appeal is executed by various specialized chambers such as investigating chamber, criminal chamber, civil chamber, chamber of commerce and chamber of labour. Each specialized chambers must have its own president, judges and clerks. General prosecutions office attached to the courts of appeals composes of prosecutor general, deputy prosecutors general, prosecutors, court clerks, administrative officials and other legal experts.

Court of appeal’s adjudication are made by panel of judges which compose of three judges (one president and two members), clerks, prosecutors by complying with the regulation of civil procedure, criminal procedure or regulation of other legal proceedings. On the other hand, where there are cases that are returned by the supreme court, the court of appeal must bring those cases back to re-adjudicate by the adjudicating council that is composed of five judges, one is the president and other four are members, under the condition that those judges were not previously involved in making the decision in that returned cases.

The court of appeal makes decision by considering both facts and relevant laws. After the adjudication, the court of appeal must provide final decision which in Khmer called “Sarl Dey Kar”. Any parties who is unsatisfied with the decision made by the court of appeal can file and lodge the complaint to the higher court which set by law.

The Supreme court is the highest court and the last court of law. Any decisions made by the Supreme court, it ends the appeal capability.  There is only one high court in Cambodia and it is located in the capital city of Phnom Penh. The high court is composed of the president, vice-presidents, court clerks, administrative officials and other legal experts. The high court is divided into different specialized chambers and is accompanied by a General prosecution office attached to the courts of appeal similarly to the court of appeal. The high court has the duty to bring to trial appeal cases which involves five judges (one is the president and the other four are counselling judges) who only consider relevant laws to make decision on such cases. In the case when there are appeal cases that are brought to re-adjudicate for the second time, the Supreme court must look into and consider both facts and relevant laws to make the decision and in this case, it involves nine judges (one president and eight counselling judges) which this type of trial is called “Plenary Chamber.” The final decision made by the high court is called “Sarl Dey Kar” which this is the last decision that ends the appeal and the case is closed.

However, laws also allow re-appeal or request for re-adjudicating on final decision made by the Supereme court and it must satisfy the terms and conditions set by laws.

Compiled by: Mr. Attorney-at-Law Seng Chunly, at Cambodian International Cooperation Law Group

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