The introduction of a juvenile court would allow children to be tried separately from adults, 104 as
well as lighten the workload of other courts. 105 Touch Chiva, project coordinator at Legal Aid of
Cambodia, states that “[ i]n principle, the law considers juveniles differently, but in practice we lack
the mechanisms and specific legal guidance on how to separate adults and children.”106 However,
having just one juvenile court in Phnom Penh, in addition to the shortage of pro bono lawyers107, may
cause further delays and an ever increasing list of juveniles waiting for a lawyer at the court in Phnom
Penh, hundreds of miles away from their families. For example, IBJ’s Appeals Project coordinated
with the UNOHCHR has confronted challenges due to the delays in transferring final verdicts from
provincial courts to the only Court of Appeals, which is located in Phnom Penh. 108 Due to this delay,
the accused will often stay longer than even their original sentence if they choose to appeal their
conviction. 109 If a juvenile court is only established in Phnom Penh, there will most likely be delays
in the transfer of documents from rural provincial courts and prisons to the court in Phnom Penh. 110
This will impair the juvenile’s criminal procedural rights and likely lead to a backload of cases.
Additionally, Billy Gorter states that, while a “separate juvenile court with trained legal
specialists…is always preferential…the reality is that Cambodia is a long way off [from] being
structurally and administratively able to establish a child-oriented juvenile justice system that
guarantees the rights of children.” 111 While the new Juvenile Justice Law is a step in the right
direction, international assistance and monitoring is still needed for the adequate protection of
procedural guarantees for juveniles.
Additionally, the law affirms the need for proper training of judicial police, prosecutors,
judges, and rehabilitation workers that have special training in working with juveniles112 in order to
understand why and how it is important to treat children with dignity and respect. At the moment,
there remains a shortage of pro bono lawyers, especially since legal representation must be provided
to juveniles at the earliest time of procedure under the new law. 113 Most pro bono lawyers live in
Phnom Penh and lack the resources to travel lengthy distances multiples times throughout the
104 A Measure of Last Resort, supra note 49, at 43.
105 IBA Human Rights Institute, Justice versus Corruption: Challenges to the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia,
INT’L BAR ASS’N 36 (Sept. 2015), http://www.ibanet.org/Document/Default.aspx?DocumentUid=4b065d2c-d691-46e5-
86bf-0a17c993c938 [hereinafter IBA Human Rights Institute].
106 Although funding is difficult to secure, the more difficult problem is implementation of the law. Barron, supra note
107 Sokhean, supra note 71.
108 Legal Aid at the Court of Appeal in Cambodia, supra note 37.
109 For example, IBJ’s client Paoskha, was sixteen when he was arbitrarily arrested and charged with drug trafficking.
After four days in a cell with no access to a lawyer, he was taken to court where a judge informed him that a default
judgment had already been entered against him. At a retrial, he was acquitted as this was a case of mistaken identity but
the prosecutor upheld the conviction. He appealed and an IBJ lawyer was assigned to his case through a UN-sponsored
project, however, he was not allowed to leave the prison while awaiting his appeal. His acquittal was eventually upheld
but Paoskha spent over a year in prison (both because of the backlog and administrative issues) waiting for his appeal and
away from his family and community. Id.
110 This is the current issue with processing appeals at the only Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh. Often, final judgments
take months to obtain from rural provincial courts and transported to the capital. This leads to several administrative issues
and longer imprisonment times for defendants whose convictions are reversed on appeal. Id.
111 Erin Handley, New law ‘urgent’, but imperfect, PHNOM PENH POST (Dec. 29, 2016),
112 JUV. JUST., supra note 8, art. 12, 24, 3, and 84.
113 JUV. JUST., supra note 8, art. 6.