Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Judiciary laws ready

Judiciary laws ready

Union leader Ath Thorn and political analyst Kem Ley outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Union leader Ath Thorn and political analyst Kem Ley outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Draft laws dealing with the Kingdom’s judicial system are headed for parliament. Heng Chivoan

Judiciary laws ready

The Council of Ministers on Friday approved three draft laws on judicial reform, clearing the way for them to move into parliament and prompting calls from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) not to pass the legislation without the participation of the opposition.

The laws – which deal with the organisation and functioning of the courts and the Supreme Council of Magistracy, and with the roles of prosecutors and judges – have languished for years without approval and drawn sharp criticism for a lack of transparency regarding their contents.

In a statement yesterday, CCHR trial-monitoring project coordinator Duch Piseth expressed concern, saying the laws “have the potential to either enhance [the judiciary’s] independence, efficiency and transparency or, on the contrary, further strengthen the influence of and control by the executive”.

“The overall lack of transparency surrounding the laws makes me worry and wonder what the Royal Government of Cambodia is trying to hide,” he added.

Despite the call for opposition participation, senior ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said yesterday that the National Assembly would move forward with the adoption process – which he estimated would take about two months – with or without the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which is still boycotting parliament.

“I and other legal experts from the CPP have enough experience in the National Assembly, therefore civil society must not take this opportunity to chain us up [and keep us] from functioning,” Yeap said.

CNRP officials could not be reached for comment.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun, who was one of the few to see earlier drafts of the three laws, said yesterday that he was unsurprised by Yeap’s aversion to civil society input and warned that the drafts he saw would give the executive branch – via the Ministry of Justice – an inordinate amount of power.

“It’s the same structure,” he said, likening the draft laws to a fresh paint job on an old car. “The driver is the same, the engine is the same, only it’s a new colour. So do you believe that it’s improved?”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,