Constitutional Council Approves Judicial Laws, Sends to King

The approval of King Norodom Sihamoni is all that is needed for three controversial judicial bills to be passed into law after they were declared constitutional this week by the CPP-stacked Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC).

Despite an outcry from rights and legal advocacy groups over articles that secure the executive branch’s control over the courts, CCC spokesman Uth Chhorn said the nine-member body unanimously approved on Wednesday the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Courts and the Law on the Statute of Judges.

“We sent [the laws] to the National Assembly on July 3 for the King to sign, but I don’t know if they have been passed to the Royal Palace yet,” Mr. Chhorn said.

“It is normal to have criticisms from NGOs, but these laws have been managed since 2004 with the consultation of experts and inter-ministerial officials,” he said. “I have verified these laws and have seen there is no point that doesn’t respond to people’s needs.”

The laws were passed in parliament and the Senate in sessions over the past two months boycotted by opposition lawmakers and senators.

Rights groups and legal experts have said the new laws merely entrench existing practices and grant the Justice Minister more power over the court system.

Earlier this week, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) said the laws fail to ensure the independence of the courts, as they were meant to do.

CCHR’s trial monitoring coordinator, Duch Piseth, said on Friday that the separation of power was sorely missing.

“I think the CCC received our analysis that we submitted a week ago, because they responded with a letter saying they would take our comments and share them to all the members,” Mr. Piseth said.

“But because the members are mainly from the ruling party, the decision would not reflect the idea of the Constitution and international standards.”

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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