Cambodian court officials defended themselves Thursday after coming under fire from human rights and legal experts over their suitability to attend a UN-funded training course believed to be in preparation for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“We were talking in the classroom that it seems only those human rights groups [think they] can hold the trials,” Phnom Penh Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savuth said Thursday. “They [think they] can do anything.”
Ouk Savuth, who’s been charged in relation to Hun Sen’s “iron fist” crackdown on corruption in the judiciary, said Cambodian judges do good work and that his name would soon be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“I believe the Khmer society still has justice,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy President Nop Sophon, one of three participants without a law degree, said he didn’t care about the criticism.
“I don’t have time to quarrel with NGOs,” he said. “I have my superiors who judge my work. Nobody else can judge my work.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Tan Senarong also defended his fellow court officials.
“Civil society is always criticizing judges and prosecutors,” he said. “The judges and prosecutors are qualified.”
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said he didn’t know why those on the list had been chosen for training but added those without formal legal education made up for this with years of experience.
“They don’t have a degree in law but they learn on the spot,” he said.
Sean Visoth, of the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal taskforce, said Tuesday the 31 judges, prosecutors and court officials on the UN course had been “shortlisted” to preside over the tribunal.
But Sean Visoth said Thursday he had been misunderstood and the tribunal officials wouldn’t necessarily come from this group.
“We do not know if they will come exclusively from this pool,” he said. “We can select from the pool, and we can select from others.”