Envoy’s Report Criticizes Lack of Court Reform

The National Election Com­mittee has a responsibility to eliminate fraud, vote-buying and violent tactics for July’s general elections, UN human rights en­voy Peter Leuprecht will tell the world body next month.

According to an advance copy of Leuprecht’s report, which is based on his weeklong visit to Cambodia earlier this month, “The [NEC] must make use of its considerable authority to impose fines and other sanctions” to combat such offenses.

Leuprecht is scheduled to present the report to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on April 7. The report criticizes Cam­bodia’s continued attempts to reform the judiciary as “insufficient,” questions the government’s land and forestry concessions and calls for better policies regarding displaced squatters.

It also decries the “corruption and acquiescence” that allow hu­man traffickers to go largely un­punished, calls prison conditions “deplorable” and laments Cambo­dia’s “delays and impediments” in adhering to the international human rights treaties it has signed. Fixing Cambodia’s troubled courts is first on Leuprecht’s agenda, since, he notes, “Legal and judicial reform remains the most elusive of Cambodia’s reform efforts.” The courts are corrupt and biased, lawyers are seriously lacking and criminals, especially police and soldiers, often get away with their crimes, the report states.

Cambodia has not done enough to address these problems, Leuprecht reports, stressing three reforms in particular that have not been undertaken.

First, the “long-awaited” law that would describe the conditions of service and tenure of judges and prosecutors must be adopted, Leuprecht states.

Second, the Supreme Council of Magistracy must exercise its powers of oversight—and the council itself “requires fundamental structural reform and must itself be independent.” The council, which has the power to discipline judges and prosecutors, is staffed entirely by government and judicial officials, including Supreme Court President Dith Munty.

Third, Leuprecht calls for amendment of the Law on Po­litical Parties, which explicitly allows judges and prosecutors to be party members and even officials, “to disassociate [them] from political influence.”

Land and forestry concessions and squatter relocations appear to be new concerns for Leu­precht. The former, he says, is a human rights issue because allowing private companies to control vast swaths of territory “represents a serious threat to the well-being of those living on such territory and has also contributed to the problem of access to land for the general population.”

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