Surya Subedi, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights to Cambodia, has expressed concerns over the government’s decision to allow the Ministry of Justice to control court finances. This is part of three controversial laws on the structure and function of the judiciary.
His visit comes soon after the passage of the laws and concerns from human rights groups and NGOs over what they claim has been a surge in forced evictions.
Other issues involve talks between unions and NGOs and the Labour Ministry on a new draft law on workers’ rights.
In a previous report, he pushed for the adoption of the judicial draft laws, characterising it as an opportunity for reform.
However, the laws in their current form have been criticised for allegedly cementing the executive branch’s control over the country’s courts.
“The spirit of my recommendations was to enhance both the independence and the capacity of the judiciary,” Subedi said, expressing reservations over provisions placing the finances of the courts under the control of the Ministry of Justice.
“That’s one item that I’m looking at rather carefully,” he said. “I do have some concerns about those provisions.”
Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said yesterday that the judicial draft laws were among the most important issues for the rapporteur to raise, and called on him to convince the government to “pull [them] back”.
“It is very important because it is the basic rule of law,” she said.
“It affects many angles of society – look at land, look at business . . . look at the daily life of the people.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment on Subedi’s visit yesterday and Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Tith Sothea declined to answer questions.