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Court shuffle, discipline set

Traffic passes in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The Supreme Council of Magistracy has announced a wide-ranging shake-up of judges and prosecutors in a document obtained yesterday.
Traffic passes in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The Supreme Council of Magistracy has announced a wide-ranging shake-up of judges and prosecutors in a document obtained yesterday. Pha Lina

Court shuffle, discipline set

Disciplinary action for a pair of judges and three deputy prosecutors was approved yesterday by the Supreme Council of Magistracy amid a reshuffle of 54 judges and 31 prosecutors and deputy prosecutors, though officials refused to release information on who was being punished and why.

The council met yesterday to review and approve the disciplinary actions, transfers and promotions, according to a statement.

Ith Rady, a member of the council, refused to elaborate on who was in line for disciplinary action or for what infractions, in a seeming attempt to downplay the procedure entirely.

“Some of them have committed [wrongdoing] while others did not,” he said without explaining why blameless court officials would be approved for discipline. “People . . . filed complaints against them.”

Sam Prachea Manith, council secretary-general, meanwhile, said administrative discipline did not truly constitute a punishment. “This is internal work of the Supreme Council of Magistracy related to work discipline, and it is not related to . . . [a] crime,” he said, also declining to name those being disciplined.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin yesterday explained that, under the law, in order to discipline a judge or a prosecutor, there must first be an investigation by the disciplinary council, whose decision is then sent to the Supreme Council of Magistracy for approval.

There are two levels of discipline, Malin said. The first level can include a written warning or reprimand, loss of promotion, a brief work suspension or being transferred. The second level is being fired, he said, declining to say what form of punishment would apply to the five individuals in question.

Several other officials contacted, including judges and prosecutors, either declined to name those being disciplined or said they didn’t know.

San Chey, director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, called on the government to be transparent in cases of internal discipline.

“The names of the officials who were [disciplined] due to bad performance should be publicly disclosed.” Otherwise, he said, “It paves the way for them to continue to do the same.”

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said while there wasn’t enough information for his organisation to comment in depth, he believed the effectiveness of the behind-the-scenes discipline might leave something to be desired.

“We are not convinced that such nature of intervention would lead to desired improvement,” he wrote in an email. Aside from the disciplinary actions, the council approved the transfer of judges, according to a four-year rotation and promotion cycle.

It also allowed five Supreme Court judges to continue working despite passing the retirement age of 65, according to Rady, who named four of them as Dith Monty, Khim Pon, Ty Neng and Yos Sokhoeum.

The council also voted to replace the provincial court directors in Pursat, Kampong Speu, Kampot and Koh Kong provinces as they reach retirement age.

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