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Consensus on judicial reform

T op-level officials from the Interior and Justice Ministries have agreed on a

package of measures in a bid to stem rising crime and reform the country's law

and order system.

The points were hammered out at a five-day meeting

hosted by the UN Centre for Human Rights and will go forward for government

consideration.

Among the recommendations we're:

 

  • Greater cooperation between the police and the judiciary.
  • The introduction of a full penal code, defining exactly what constitutes a

    crime.

  • A law of evidence, which deems what is acceptable to be put before a

    court.

  • Proper training for the police and judiciary.
  • The introduction of forensic and other scientific means of investigating

    crime.

  • To shift control of prisons from the Ministry of Interior to Ministry of

    Justice. The move was recommended by a Ministry of Interior official who said it

    was needed to prevent criticism of the police.

However, Basil Fernando, a high-ranking UN human rights official, who hosted

the meeting, warned the reforms would be impossible to implement without large

amounts of foreign aid.

Mr Fernando said: "Having functioning judicial

and police systems is central to creating a social environment in which human

rights are protected, in which development can occur, and in which tourism can

be fostered."

Among the participants of the meeting were judges,

prosecutors, nine police generals and two members of the National Assembly.

Mr Fernando said: "The participants in the seminar were very sincerely

involved, there was a great deal of participation.

Mr Fernando said one

main concern of the participants was how to contend with rising crime

rates.

The participants in the seminar emphasized the need for "greater

coordination between the police and the judiciary," and identified the many

areas which needed regulation by new laws, Mr Fernando said.

He added

said that criminal investigations were also badly in need of cash and assistance

from overseas.

Mr Fernando said: "At the moment there are no obligatory

investigations in criminal cases. Most of the time cases are not

investigated.

"Part of the problem is a lack of equipment to carry out

the investigations. There are no forensic doctors, no forensic

laboratories.

"But improving the judiciary and police systems is going to

cost money."

Mr Fernando added: "If Cambodia wants a working judicial

system, capable of creating security for its law-abiding citizens and foreign

investors, money will have to be invested."

Due a lack of large

investigative teams, technical apparatus, and technical expertise, the police

are unable to pursue convictions and bring criminals to justice, said Mr

Fernando.

In the absence of an investigative apparatus, catching

criminals now depends for the most part on "catching them in the act," said

another human rights worker, who declined to be named.

"Often this

results in a shoot-out and sometimes the death of policemen or the

criminals."

The rights worker pointed out two other major problems the

police face controlling crime.

He said that "the police have taken the

view that there are only a few hundred of them and if they are taken out one at

a time, so much the better."

The second problem is that many of the

criminals are well connected.

The rights worker said: "They have

high-level patrons who will have them quickly on the street again if they are

captured."

This problem is bypassed, he said, "by simply gunning them

down when they are caught in the act." But being able to do this requires luck,

or a tip-off.

Mr Fernando said: "Creating a real justice system in any

country requires primarily a commitment from above, justice will not arise from

a grassroots movement."

Human rights advocates have long noted that

judges and policemen, like other government servants cannot support their

families on the money that they are paid.

If independence of the

judiciary is to be achieved, their salaries will have to be raised, they point

out,

But the human rights worker said: "If salaries are raised only for

judiciary and the police, the army and other government workers are likely to

revolt."

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