The National Assembly yesterday opened debate for the first time on the first of three controversial judicial draft laws, approving in principle the first two chapters of the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the Courts, in the continued absence of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Addressing lawmakers, Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana maintained that the laws would “improve public justice services, strengthen the independence of the court’s powers, as well as strengthen the state of law and good governance”.
Civil society observers have criticised the laws for placing excessive power in the hands of the executive branch and for sailing through the drafting period without outside input, but Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap insisted yesterday that “nobody can order around the parliament, especially human rights groups”.
Fellow CPP lawmaker Hu Sry yesterday took to task those who attacked the assembly for moving forward with the laws without the CNRP, calling such criticism “shameful”.
“Why don’t those individual organisations call for the [CNRP] to sit in the National Assembly?” Sry asked.
Despite the statements made by the minister of justice, legal expert Sok Sam Oeun expressed reservations yesterday about the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the Courts, saying that it would create a needlessly complicated hierarchy, leave administration of courts in the hands of the Justice Ministry and maintain troubling aspects of the current system, such as the lack of juvenile courts.
“This law is not reform,” he said. “Reform means change, right? But this is just the same; it legalises the current practice.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE