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‘Advice’ for judiciary questioned

A transparency advocate yesterday cautiously greeted a plan for consultation between judges, prosecutors and Justice Ministry officials handling land dispute and other controversial cases, though an international lawyer said it could compromise judicial independence.

The consultation – to be conducted via instant-messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram – was put forward at a meeting of judges and prosecutors with the minister of justice in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said some chat groups were already created though not active.

“When a problem arises, we can exchange ideas and experience… which can be used as a base for judgment,” he said of the “informal mechanism”.

Yesterday, Transparency International executive director Preap Kol said that while advice coming from the ministry “with strings attached” was problematic, judges and prosecutors should “keep absorbing new theories, skills and knowledge from all thinkable sources”.

However, an international lawyer working in Cambodia, who requested anonymity, said seeking advice from the ministry could infringe on the court’s independence.

“If it’s just training it’s fine . . . but the concern is if judges ask for a piece of advice and they don’t [follow it], after that it can be not good for them in terms of career, because the Supreme Council of the Magistracy (SCM) is in the hands of the Ministry of Justice, so it can be a problem.”

Malin rejected that the ministry controls the SCM, the secretary of which yesterday announced it would run a two-day refresher course on ethics for some 100 judges and prosecutors this week.

Additional reporting by Shaun Turton

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