A group of leading civil society organisations yesterday called on members of the Senate to delay three laws on the judiciary that were passed by a National Assembly comprising solely of Cambodian People’s Party lawmakers last week.
In a joint statement signed by the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with several prominent local NGOs, the organisations decried what they characterised as the excessive powers to be granted to the Ministry of Justice under the new laws.
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun confirmed yesterday that the last of the three laws was adopted on Friday, unamended, and asked why the assembly would need to make changes when they are “already perfect”.
According to yesterday’s statement, however, the wide-ranging statutes were anything but.
“If these bills, in their current form, are passed into law, the Royal Government of Cambodia [RGC] will cement its existing control over the country’s Judges and Prosecutors, posing a serious threat to the rule of law in Cambodia,” the statement reads.
Among the organisations’ grievances with the new laws are that they grant “sweeping powers” to the minister of justice to control the administration and budgets of courts, issue orders to prosecutors and control judicial promotions and discipline – powers that, the organisations argue, contravene both the Cambodian constitution and international protocols.
The groups noted that the transferring of power to the executive branch, via the Justice Ministry, “appears to be deliberate”, with a line in earlier drafts that explicitly protected the judiciary’s independence having been removed in the current versions.
Opposition Senator Hong Sochua said yesterday that his party had “no reason to support” the three laws.
“Our position [is] we will not attend this debate, because we will boycott the session,” he said.
But with only 11 of 61 senators representing the opposition, he added, Sochua said there were “not enough voices” to block a quorum.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG