While there may be a case against judges and prosecutors for illegally detaining criminal suspects for long periods of time, the International Criminal Court is not the right forum to fix Cambodia’s judicial system, local legal experts said Sunday.
“I doubt whether it is within the ICC’s jurisdiction,” said Lao Mong Hay of the Center for Social Development. “To be able to access to ICC, complainants should have exhausted the mechanisms or court procedures available in the country.”
Five local NGOs announced plans Friday to lodge a complaint against Phnom Penh Municipal Judges Tan Senarong, Thorng Ol and Un Bunna and Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savuth for the detention of 114 criminal suspects beyond the legal six-month pre-trial detention period.
The little-known NGOs call themselves The Committee Strict Laws Enforcement for Human Rights in Cambodia and are led by Heang Rithy, of The Cambodian National Research Organization.
The ICC, based in The Hague, presides over cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
The NGOs have said the illegally long detentions constitute a crime against humanity. They say they have exhausted all avenues for a resolution within Cambodia, a requirement for any case to be accepted by the ICC.
But Lao Mong Hay said they should launch a case against the judges at the municipal court and take it through to the Supreme Court and Supreme Council of Magistracy. He added that a complaint should also be lodged with the UN High Commissioners Office for Human Rights.
Bun Honn, secretary-general of the Lawyer Training Clinic, said the lack of space for proceedings and shortage of legal professionals is to blame for the prolonged detentions. He said an appeal should be made to King Norodom Sihamoni, head of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, also said the NGOs should file a complaint to the UN.