Bar Association Accuses Rights Monitor of Legal Interference

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia on Tuesday wrote to local rights group Adhoc accusing its head of monitoring, Ny Chakrya, of flouting legal practice by ordering the NGO’s lawyers to hand over for examination all documents relating to cases they defend.

The letter, dated Monday and signed by bar president Bun Honn, stated that on July 6, unspecified lawyers working with Adhoc reported to the Bar Association that Mr. Chakrya routinely asked to see documents pertaining to individual cases in order to scrutinize them for flaws in the legal procedure.

“I have the duty to inform Adhoc’s president that the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia received a report…from lawyers who work for Adhoc explaining that…[Mr. Chakrya]… always ordered lawyers to bring him cases to review to find faults in the procedure of the cases,” said the letter, addressed to Adhoc president Thun Saray.

The letter cites a number of articles from the Law on the Bar stressing that lawyers should be free from interference and free to defend clients as they see fit, without betraying their obligation to confidentiality.

Those found guilty of abusing the rules in criminal cases, including breaching confidentiality as set out in articles 83 and 121 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, are subject to punishment, the letter states.

“We ask the president to investigate and take any measures to guarantee that [the rules] are correctly implemented according to the law,” the letter said.

Mr. Chakrya is currently under investigation by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over accusations that he defamed and attempted to coerce two judicial officials by claiming they mishandled a land dispute case in Siem Reap province in which two farmers were jailed for two years but had most of their sentences suspended.

Last week, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an international rights coalition, issued a statement criticizing what it called “the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Ny Chakrya.”

Speaking by telephone Tuesday, Mr. Honn said that even he, as president of the Bar Association, cannot demand to see all documents relating to a case.

“We want [Adhoc] to understand about the law because…they cannot do that and if they continue to do so, we will take action by the law,” Mr. Honn said, adding that the association was not targeting Adhoc but rather addressing Adhoc’s contravention of bar rules.

“This is not a case of me interfering with Adhoc but with actions by the organization that go against the law.”

Mr. Chakrya said he had not seen the letter nor was he aware of any lawyers who had reported him. He denied asking to see confidential case documentation and said the only documents that Adhoc’s lawyers were required to hand in were for administrative purposes.

“We simply manage the administration work, but we do not interfere with the rights or obligations of lawyers working for Adhoc,” Mr. Chakrya said.

He added that the Bar Association should have met with Adhoc to see and understand its process before publicizing a letter.

Mr. Saray, Adhoc’s president, supported Mr. Chakrya and said the documents lawyers filed with Adhoc relating to cases were solely related to budgetary matters.

“We don’t require our lawyers to provide full documentation of cases. We don’t need to see the full details of any case. But we need to see documentary proof relating to their salaries and expenses for our financial auditors,” he said, adding that Adhoc would respond in full to the bar tomorrow.

“We are carefully preparing a statement and will provide a full and proper response to the president of the Bar Association and to the members of the public,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Simon Henderson)

[email protected]

© 2015, All rights reserved.