Draft Law To Dilute Senatorial Immunity From Prosecutions

The National Assembly has ap­proved a draft law that would allow senators to be charged with criminal offenses without first lifting their immunity from prosecution.

The draft law, passed Thursday, is similar to one pertaining to Na­tional Assembly lawmakers that pass­ed last year, which was regarded by many as limiting the freedom of parliamentarians to speak their minds.

CPP Senate Legislation and Justice Chairman Ouk Bunch­hoeun defended the law Monday, saying it will only be used to guide the behavior of Cambodia’s 61 senators.

“The draft law does not run contrary to the Constitution. It will ad­vise senators on how not to use the freedom of expression inappropriately. This is not pressure or punishment,” he said, adding that most senators are already in agreement with the draft.

According to article 5 of the law, a senator who commits a crime can be charged, arrested, detained or imprisoned after having their immunity stripped by a two-thirds Senate vote. A request to lift a senator’s immunity must come from the Appeal Court’s general prosecutor and go through the Justice Ministry to the Senate.

However, a controversial provision in the law allows senators who commit “obvious” crimes to be im­mediately charged, arrested and detained without their immunity being stripped.

SRP Senator Kong Korm said the new law allows for government control of Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

“The status law will reduce the freedom of expression. The senators are afraid to express their ideas,” he said.

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elec­tions, said the new law is a disgrace to the democratic process.

“Senators will be under the influence of the government. The gov­ern­ment can easily strip the senators’ immunity. It is a shameful draft law for the democratic process,” he said.

The law also provides for the Senate to pay for the funeral expenses of a senator and to pay a year’s salary to a late senator’s family from the date of death. Retired senators will also receive a pen­sion after they reach the age of 60.

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