human rights cambodia

A Stolen Ipad and Fair Trial Rights in Cambodia


On Thursday, 19 March at 10 pm, Maria, frustrated over her children’s and her own hunger, arrives with her old bicycle at the local grocery store, which is owned by the mayor’s cousin’s wife, Mrs. Mango. Maria breaks in through the back door and moves towards the shelves, where she steals three bags of rice before she moves towards the back door again. On her way out she notices that the door to the owner’s office is open. She looks in and finds an Ipad on the desk. She takes it and quickly leaves the store…

This was the beginning of a case that 54 judge and prosecutor students at the Royal Academy of Judicial Profession (RAJP) argued last week at the first RAJP-RWI moot court competition on international human rights law.

As part of the long cooperation between RAJP and RWI which have resulted in the introduction of compulsory human rights courses in the standard curricula for judges, prosecutors and court clerks, RAJP and RWI have now taken the next step in the cooperation.

The event, which includes both teaching and individual research, will conclude with a full day moot court competition where the students (divided into teams of 4-5) argue the case from both the applicant side and the respondent side in front of experienced human rights experts.

In the case of Maria it turns out that the Ipad she has stolen contains correspondence from the Minister of Defence regarding a weapons deal. Maria is arrested in the middle of the night and is put incommunicado in a cell without running water. In the case the students meet a judge who receives a phone call during the hearing, a prosecutor who feels pressured from the police commissioner and a lawyer who forgets to file an appeal on time. The case has many twists and turns and includes a number of issues related to, in particular, fair trial rights.

“The students were very engaged during three intensive days. They played the roles in a very committed way and showed good knowledge of international human rights standards,” says Andreas Ljungholm, director of RWI’s office in Cambodia.

The students will soon graduate from RAJP and take up positions as junior judges and prosecutors throughout the country.