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Ranariddh targets CPP's control of judiciary

Ranariddh targets CPP's control of judiciary

P RINCE Norodom Ranariddh has for the first time publicly questioned the Cambodian

People's Party dominance of the justice system, and called for the urgent establishment

of the Constitutional Council.

The Funincpec leader and First Prime Minister said last week that he was negotiating

with CPP to have at least one judge appointed by Funcinpec.

He said he had told Second Prime Minister and CPP leader Hun Sen that it was not

fair that everyone in charge of the judiciary was CPP-appointed.

Ranariddh also strongly criticized the justice system, saying that it was corrupt

and could not be relied upon for justice by "the poor people."

He urged that the Constitutional Council and the Supreme Council of Magistracy -

the top bodies provided for in Cambodia's Constitution - be set up "as early

as possible."

Ranariddh's statement followed comments by one of the King's top advisers, Nhiek

Tioulong, that the lack of a Constitutional Council meant the Government and the

National Assembly was functioning unconstitutionally.

Speaking to journalists in the grounds of his house on Oct 12, Ranariddh said: "As

a Prime Minister, I am not happy with our justice [system]. What the justice is running

today is not satisfactory to me, maybe satisfactory to others but not to me."

But Ranariddh said it was Funcinpec's own problem that because it had no judges it

could appoint no-one to the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

"To be frank, I am now dealing with the CPP [to ask] that on the Supreme Court

and so on there should be one representative from Funcinpec."

Two years after the coalition government was formed there were "only CPP"

judges and "we should have at least one."

"If we have one we can appoint that man to be a member of the Supreme Council

of Magistracy. Immediately, the second step [will be] to set up the Constitutional

Council.

"It is in the interests of Cambodia to set up those two bodies which are very

important as early as possible.

"Yesterday I told Samdech Hun Sen that [of the people] in charge of justice,

there is no-one coming from Funcinpec. I think this is not very balanced on the one

hand. On the other hand Funcinpec cannot appoint anyone if we are not part of the

magistracy."

Ten months after a law governing the Supreme Council of Magistracy was passed by

the National Assembly - following repeated criticism that it would entrench the judiciary

in CPP hands - the body has yet to begin functioning.

The law provides for a nine member council made up of the King, the Minister of Justice,

the Chief Judges and Prosecutors of the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court and three

judges elected by the judiciary.

Minister of Justice Chem Snguon recently announced the "temporary" appointment

of the three judges - one whom is no longer a judge but a senior ministry official

- until an election can be held.

The Supreme Council of Magistracy, once it begins work, will nominate three members

of the Constitutional Council. A further three will be picked by the King.

The last remaining three are to be nominated by the National Assembly. Under an initial

deal, Funcinpec, CPP and BLDP were to nominate one each.

Political observers, however, say the CPP later argued it should appoint two of three

National Assembly nominees, and BLDP none.

Ranariddh said the Supreme Council of Magistracy was urgently needed, not only to

clear the way for the Constitutional Council but to ensure "very strict discipline"

of judges.

The Prime Minister was scathing about the state of justice in Cambodia, saying it

was "not acceptable."

He accused judges of accepting "big money" from businessmen charged with

smuggling offenses to acquit them.

Meanwhile, there were many other cases where criminals had not been punished harshly

enough by the courts.

He cited a Stung Treng murder case where a convicted killer received a four-month

suspended jail sentence.

"How can you afford to do something like this?" Ranariddh asked.

"The poor, small people have to be protected....I think that the poor people

will not be protected by the law and the court."

Khmer Institute of Democracy president Dr Lao Mong Hay praised Ranariddh's calls

for the two councils to be formed soon, and said the Prince was "doing the right

thing."

Mong Hay said most important was that the magistrates' council comprise competent,

independent people.

"Ideally, for the sake of the rule of law and of the whole nation, we should

have members who have no links with any party.

"But we cannot do that. It's impossible because the appointments are made by

political bosses."

Meanwhile, Ranariddh has backed off his recent call for the dealth penalty to be

reintroduced in Cambodia for serious crimes, after his suggestion was opposed by

his father, King Norodom Sihanouk.

"We have to abide by what His Majesty the King has decided," Ranariddh

said.

The King, in two recent statements, strongly opposed the prospect of Cambodia's constitution

being amended to allow the death penalty.

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