In a final bid to block three controversial draft judiciary laws that have sped through the National Assembly and Senate, civil society organisations have urged the Constitutional Council to declare the laws unconstitutional.
In an open letter made public yesterday, a coalition of NGOs argue that the three draft laws would give the Minister of Justice an excessive amount of power and completely subsume Cambodia’s courts under the ruling Cambodian People’s Party control.
The laws will give the Ministry of Justice control over the administration of courts, the Supreme Council of Magistracy and the promotions and disciplining of judges and prosecutors, according to the letter.
“As the laws fail to uphold the constitutional principles of separation of powers and independence of judiciary, under a fair and balanced interpretation of the Constitution, they must be declared unconstitutional,” the statement outlines.
The three laws will officially take effect when signed by King Norodom Sihamoni.
Under the constitution, the Supreme Council of Magistracy is charged with overseeing judges and insulating the judicial branch from outside influence.
Prom Nhean Viceth, spokesman for the Constitutional Council, could not be reached.
But Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that if the three laws take effect, any division between the judicial and executive branches of government will evaporate.
“If these laws are passed, any new reform will not be possible,” he said.
Senior ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed claims the draft laws were unconstitutional and said they were “going forward”.