Adhoc and Supreme Council Tangle Over Corruption Complaint

A row has developed between local rights group Adhoc and the Supreme Council of Magistracy after the highest legal body in the land refused to accept a complaint regarding corruption in the judiciary because it was submitted by the rights group on behalf of a poor farming family in Ratanakkiri province.

Adhoc’s Ratanakkiri Provincial Coordinator, Pen Bonnar, said that the family that had complained were cashew nut pickers, and they had no money to travel from the northeast of the country to Phnom Penh to bring their grievance to the attention of the council.

“They are poor, and they will face problems,” Mr Bonnar said of the family.

Iv Horng, director of the Su­p­reme Council’s administration de­partment, said on Tuesday that the family must travel to Phnom Penh, and that he would not accept any documents from Adhoc.

“We need clear information from the plaintiff. We do not want to get information from Adhoc,” Mr Horng said by telephone, adding that those lodging complaints must be interviewed and questioned before the council’s disciplinary council could act.

Pen Bonnar also questioned on Tuesday why the Supreme Council could not travel to the province to investigate firsthand the serious complaint of extortion made by the family against a Ratanakkiri Pro­vincial Court Judge and his clerk.

Mr Horng, however, said that the council would “never go to the field,” adding that numerous complaints had been lodged with the council, mostly allegations regarding “irregularities” involving judges.

The Ministry of Justice was more accommodating, however, and Lox Sokleang, an assistant to the cabinet of the ministry, confirm­ed that he had received the complaint from Adhoc that alleges that court clerk Yorn Than and Judge Lou Sousambath were involved in extortion.

“The complaint is with His Ex­cellency The Minister. He will sign the complaint and assign the relevant department,” Mr Sokleang said.

The allegations relate to the ar­rest of a drug user, Keo Seila, who was 18 years old when he was de­tained at the Ratanakkiri provincial prison in 2007 at the behest of his family after he smashed furniture at his home and pushed his grandmother while under the influence of drugs.

His mother and aunt, who be­lieve the young man has been suitably chastened, now want him re­leased, but allege that they have been ordered to pay $500 for Judge Sousambath to hold a trial—as Mr Seila has never stood trial—which will then exonerate the now 20-year-old and set him free.

Contacted by telephone on Tues­day, Mr Than, the court clerk who is named in the complaint, admitted again that he had asked the family for the kickback, but alleged that he had only done so on the orders of Judge Sousambath.

“I never forced those women to pay me,” Mr Than said by telephone from Ratanakkiri. “The de­mand for money stemmed from the judge’s order, because he wanted the money, not me,” Mr Than said. “I just hope the officials from the Ministry of Justice find the truth for me over the allegations.”

A young man answering Judge Sousambath’s phone on Tuesday said that he was a nephew of the judge and that he knew nothing about the controversy.

Meas Sophea, the aunt of the jail­ed youth, who wrote the complaint letter, said that it should be the country’s highest legal bodies, and not poor people, who should be responsible for travel and other expenses when it came to investigating corruption in the country’s courts.

“I would prefer for those officials to come here,” Ms Sophea said by telephone Tuesday. “I don’t think I or my sister would be able to cover the expense of travel and food, as well as accommodation in Phnom Penh,” she said.

“If they are willing to help the poor, I think they would change their minds and come here,” she said of the Supreme Council.


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