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Civil society submits petition for politically-neutral judges

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Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC) executive director Soeurng Saroeun. VOICE OF AMERICA

Civil society submits petition for politically-neutral judges

In a request signed by more than 500 organisations, civil society representatives on Monday petitioned the government to amend three laws on the judiciary.

During the 4th Government-CSOs Partnership Forum, civil society organisations (CSOs) requested changes to improve the efficacy of the legal system and guarantee the neutrality of judges and prosecutors.

Namely, they asked for changes to three laws – the Law on the Organisation and Function of the Supreme Council of Magistracy; the Law on the Organisation and Function of the Judiciary; and the Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors.

The forum on Monday was attended by more than 300 people, mostly public officials and CSO representatives.

Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC) executive director Soeurng Saroeun said judges should not be allowed to take part in the country’s politics.

“Judges and prosecutors in Cambodia are allowed to participate in politics and can join any political party they wish. Restrictions on these freedoms would guarantee their neutrality,” he said.

Saroeun said the judiciary should enjoy more independence from the public administration, particularly concerning the budget.

He asked the Ministry of Interior to strive for an equal implementation of the law without discrimination, and called for an end to all forms of monitoring of CSO activities.

“The Ministry of Interior should implement punitive and disciplinary administrative action against any authority that refuses to implement regulations or implements them in a way that contradicts their essence,” he said.

CSOs are also requesting that work to draft a law on access to information be sped up, and that the government takes input from civil society representatives.

Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said the Cambodian legal system is often criticised for allowing judges to get involved in politics, opening the door to self-serving behaviour and corruption.

“With a good law that is properly implemented, we can restore the image of the judiciary and regain public trust. If not, people will continue to criticise the system,” he said.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said he welcomed the requests.

“We acknowledge that there are some problems with the laws. We will address them if possible, but it should be noted that these laws were drafted based on the experience of many developed and democratic countries,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post that the Access to Information Law will be promulgated this year.

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