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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Judiciary row splits House

Judiciary row splits House

A DRAFT law concerning whether the Minister of Justice should be a member of a

council with wide ranging powers over the Judiciary has become the focus of

intense political debate and division of the parliament along political


In an historic first, Funcinpec members of the National Assembly

have put forward an alternative draft of the Supreme Council of Magistracy law,

due to be tabled before the Assembly in this session.

The Magistracy law

deals with judicial appointments and disciplinary procedures for judges found to

be incompetent.

A foreign legal analyst said: "The law governs the

functioning of one third of the government, the judiciary, it is crucial that

legislation covering this area is passed soon."

The controversy began

because the initial draft law included the Minister of Justice, Chem Sngoun, as

a member of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

The Supreme Council of

Magistracy will be responsible for arbitrating and enforcing the Magistracy law,

thus some Assembly members and legal analysts saw Sngoun's membership of the

council as an undue executive interference in the affairs of the judiciary.

It was Sngoun's department which drafted the Magistracy Law.


issue has divided the Assembly on political lines.

A government source,

requesting anonymity, said: " A CPP party directive has been issued asking party

members to support comrade Snguon's draft."

Thirty-two Funcinpec, BLDP

and Moulinaka memebers have signed a petition supporting the Funcinpec draft,

one MP said: "Article 51 of our Constitution clearly states that the judiciary,

legislature and executive have to be separate, thus it is impossible to have the

Minister on the Council."

"Our aim is not to oppose Snguon, we only want

to ensure that we have a law which conforms with our Constitution."


pointed out that the Snguon is a part of the executive as a Minister, the

legislature as a member of the Assembly, and will now also have power over


"Especially in the last 20 years, our judiciary has virtually

collapsed. It has to be made independent."

Government sources say the

Commission itself became deeply divided on political lines.



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