Surya Subedi, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, added his voice yesterday to the growing chorus of criticism aimed at three draft laws on Cambodia’s judiciary that sailed through the National Assembly last week.
Subedi – who had previously championed the laws as having the potential to enact deep reform – said in a statement yesterday that he “very much” regretted the opacity with which the laws were drafted, and echoed observers’ deep concerns that the new laws would jeopardise the independence of the courts.
“I had previously recommended that the law clearly prohibit judges and prosecutors from being active members of any political party,” Subedi said, noting the lack of such “an explicit prohibition” in the relevant law.
“I am also deeply concerned about the fact that the Ministry of Justice has been given a number of powers over the judiciary,” he continued, noting that any involvement of the executive branch in the judiciary was unacceptable.
The special rapporteur went on to say that the laws “seem to fall short of the international standards” of judicial independence, and called on the Senate and Constitutional Council to bring them into line with Cambodia’s obligations under international conventions.
A government spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday. Officials have repeatedly refused to acknowledge any flaws in the three bills.