Legal analyst Lao Mong Hay on Friday accused Khmer Rouge tribunal judicial appointee Ney Thol of being a member of the CPP central committee, adding that the international community risks legitimizing Cambodia’s politically affiliated judiciary by cooperating on the trial.
He added that he believes all 17 of the Cambodian prosecutors and judges nominated for the tribunal are members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
“Among the 17 listed, there is one who is a member of the central committee,” Lao Mong Hay said of Military Court President Ney Thol, adding that he was elected to the committee last year.
“Openly or discretely, all the judges are members of the ruling party,” he said. “They have to toe the party line.”
His comments came a day after Hun Sen described critics of the trial’s judges and prosecutors as animals, and urged one person who had questioned the appointment of the officials to stay in Toronto, Canada. Lao Mong Hay has said he believed this may have been a reference to himself.
Ney Thol, who will serve as a judge in the pre-trial chamber that will resolve disputes about who to prosecute, declined to say whether he was on the central committee, while Thong Ol, the tribunal’s reserve co-investigating judge, would not reveal whether he was a CPP member.
Asked whether the Cambodian tribunal officials were CPP members, government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith replied: “Who is not a member of one political party? [Lao Mong Hay] was also a member of Son Sann’s party before.”
The judges were selected by the Supreme Council of Magistracy based on their experience and qualifications, he said, adding that the trial will be handled according to the law.
On Thursday, Hun Sen said critics of the trial appointees are animals because they don’t know their backgrounds, adding: “They even want to seduce their own parents.”
Asked about the legitimacy of criticizing the tribunal’s judicial staff, tribunal spokesman Peter Foster referred to articles of the Cambodian Constitution which state that Cambodia will respect human rights as stipulated in the UN charter, and that Khmer citizens will have freedom of expression.
The Asian Human Rights Commission, for which Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher, issued a statement saying that people outside Cambodia might wonder why Hun Sen was unable to tolerate criticism of his choices.
The commission added that in the 1980s, judicial officers were selected from among party cadres and their function was to protect socialist legality. They did not need specific competency as judges, the statement said.
“This is what Hun Sen understands to be a judiciary. His notion of a court is that it will condemn and punish whoever is brought before it-as quickly as possible and as expected by the state,” the commission added.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, wrote in an e-mail that Cambodia has appointed several good individuals, while others may lack proper credentials or outlook.
“[B]ut we should accept the decision of the Royal Government and UN and move forward. We can do this by realizing that safeguards have been built into the RGC-UN process that will prevent unfair decisions,” he wrote. “We must not lose sight of the fact that the process is finally underway.”