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IBA Human Rights Institute director Dr Philip Tahmindjis (right) talks during a press conference to launch the report Justice Versus Corruption earlier this month in Phnom Penh.
IBA Human Rights Institute director Dr Philip Tahmindjis (right) talks during a press conference to launch the report Justice Versus Corruption earlier this month in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Bar association rebuts report

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) has hit back at a damning report from the International Bar Association (IBA), refuting accusations that it is a politicised facilitator of endemic corruption in the judiciary.

In a statement released on Saturday, the BAKC insisted it supports and protects its members, who maintain professional and ethical conduct that is untainted by political considerations.

The statement suggested the report released by the IBA’s Human Rights Institute on September 17 was not thoroughly investigated and largely reliant on outdated hearsay.

“This report . . . is incorrect and dramatically biased; it might be an attempt to ruin the attorney profession and deceive the Cambodian society,” the statement said.

BAKC president Bun Hun yesterday refused to expand on the statement.

At the time of publishing its report, Justice Versus Corruption: Challenges to the Independence of the Judiciary in Cambodia, the IBA said it had based its findings on a weeklong fact-finding mission in April, during which its representatives met with Cambodian lawyers, judges and civil society representatives.

The report lambasted the endemic corruption, bribery and political influence it said it found in the Kingdom’s judiciary and suggested the BAKC should have its membership of the IBC reviewed.

“We have seen a lot of corruption in other countries, but nothing on the endemic level that appears to be going on here,” said IBA Human Rights Institute director Dr Philip Tahmindjis during a press conference to launch the report.

The IBC criticised the BAKC for being “highly politicised” and clearly aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, while suggesting it failed to defend its members associated with the opposition.

The IBC also noted the “troubling” accusations that both lawyers and judges had to pay significant sums to enter the profession, including bribes of up to $50,000 to enter the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions.

The retort from the BAKC came just days after UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith called for rule of law to be strengthened in the Kingdom during a press conference marking the end of her first official visit since being appointed in March.

“Developing and ensuring the independence of those bodies with specific roles in the protection of human rights, particularly the judiciary, is essential for building the stable democratic nation Cambodians aspire to live in,” she said on Thursday.

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