Swedish Coffee and Fair Trial Rights in Cambodia


Get a look at how we work every day to contribute to the development and promotion of human rights. For the next few weeks, Andreas Ljungholm, the head of RWI's office in Phnom Penh, will share his days.

andreaskaffeIt is probably the first day in a month that I have no external meetings or activities that I have to attend. Plenty of time to write emails, deal with “things to do” on my very long list and drink lots of Swedish coffee (which was delivered to us from Lund when Lena visited the office last month – thanks Lena!).

I just came off the phone with Dararoth who is currently at the Royal Academy for Judicial Profession (RAJP) implementing a one week training course for 32 court clerks.

We initiated cooperation with RAJP formally in 2014 when we developed and implemented the first ever credited human rights course for the students that study to become prosecutors and judges. The particular focus of the human right courses are on fair trial rights.

It is important that the courses are as practical as possible and clearly relate to issues the students are likely to take decisions on in their future jobs. We spent plenty of time on developing the curricula, which has now been tested successfully a number of times in different forms.

It is very inspiring to once again have the opportunity to work with fair trial rights, which I see as one of the cornerstones in the human rights framework. The first time I worked specifically with fair trial rights was when I worked in Sarajevo at the Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, 13 years later I work on the same topic in Cambodia. The same principles. In another continent. A decade later. Fascinating.

Convicting a person of a criminal offense, and possibly taking away his/her liberty, carries with it huge responsibilities. The fair trial rights principles are essential in this context. It is therefore of utmost importance that justice sector staff in any country are fully aware of these basic principles. Without such knowledge there will always be a risk that the individuals’ right to a fair trial is violated. This is not only a concern for the individual whose right has been violated, but to the society at large and the general trust in the justice system.

The importance of basic principles like presumption of innocence, the right to legal assistance, the right to a public hearing and the right to be present at one’s trial cannot be emphasized enough.

It does not matter if you are a farmer in Laos, a businesswoman in New York, a factory worker in Namibia or a nurse in Sweden. Every single individual has the right to a fair trial. I believe anybody suspected of a crime wants to have their case heard by an independent and impartial judge.

I believe anybody suspected of a crime wants to be tried within reasonable time and not have to wait worryingly for years and years to have their case heard. I believe anybody suspected of a crime wants to understand the charges against them and be able to defend themselves in person or through a lawyer of their own choice. It is not that difficult. To me human rights comes down to treating other people the way you want to be treated yourself.

Fair trial rights in CambodiaI have to stop here since Kimsan just came to the office. Interestingly, Kimsan (who is a researcher at the research centre at Royal University of Law and Economics) spent three months at RWI in Lund last year doing research on…fair trial rights.