Controversial Judiciary Laws Pass Without Change

With all 11 senators from the opposition boycotting their seats, the Senate on Thursday passed three controversial judiciary laws which critics say will tighten government control of the courts.

The ruling CPP’s 44 senators passed the laws without change, said CPP senator and Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang.

“All three laws are important for the court to be able to implement laws,” said Mr. Bun Neang, rejecting criticism of the laws.

“When these laws are passed, they can make the court more independent than before,” he said.

The Law on the Organization of the Courts, the Law on the Statute of Judges and Prosecutors, and the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy have been almost a decade in the making and were intended to set better checks on the court and improve its efficacy and independence.

Instead, the three laws appear set to cement executive control of the judiciary by putting the justice minister in charge of a number of key administrative functions, and have come under harsh criticism from legal experts and rights groups.

The laws had passed the National Assembly last month, where an ongoing opposition boycott saw them pass without debate.

You Seangheng, one of the Sam Rainsy Party senators who boycotted Thursday’s vote, said it was impossible to even consider the laws after they passed through an Assembly devoid of the CNRP.

“We could not recognize these laws because they were passed by one party, so they cannot be independent,” said Mr. Seangheng.

“I think these laws give the power to the Ministry of Justice,” he said. “A country that has good processes depends on three powers; legislative, executive and judiciary. But the legislative and judicial powers are under the executive, so it can’t be independent.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said laws passed by a single party were inherently unfair. “I think the passage is not in compliance with the Constitution,” he said.

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Correction: A previous version of this story cites Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang saying that the judicial laws passed without debate. He said the laws were passed without change. 

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