Government Already Has List of KR Judges

Legal Experts Say Gov’t Trying To Influence Tribunal

The government has already drawn up a list of Cambodian judges and prosecutors to serve in a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, two top government officials said Thursday.

The tribunal draft law passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday says the Supreme Coun­cil of Magistracy shall appoint the judges and prosecutors to serve in the three tribunal levels—trial, appeals and su­preme court.

“We already have a list of all those people,” said one government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Even though the draft law says the Supreme Council has the right to appoint them, the government has al­ready done so.”

The number of people on the list matches the exact number of judges and prosecutors to be appointed in the draft law, the official said.

“It was not the government’s in­tention to select more judges and prosecutors than what is needed and then cut the list,” he said. “We chose the exact number needed.”

The official added that all of the people on the government list are qualified to participate in a Khmer Rouge trial. “There is no need to train them because all of them are experienced and already have the necessary knowledge,” he said.

Legal experts were critical of the list, saying the government should not be involved in the judicial selection process.

“This is a problem because if the government is involved in choosing the judges, then the government could have an influence over what happens in the trial,” said Ang Eng Thong, president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, also said it’s not good for the government to be involved. “The Supreme Council is the one who is supposed to appoint the judges and that is all,” he said.

The draft law, which is expected to be sent to the Senate today, does not address the issue of whether Cambodian judges and prosecutors would have to be nominated.

Article 11 states: “The Supreme Council of Magistracy shall appoint at least 12 Cambodian judges to act as judges of the Extraordinary Chambers, and shall appoint reserve judges as needed…”

The 12 candidates for the foreign judge posts will be nominated by the UN secretary general and submitted to the Supreme Council of Magistracy, which will choose nine foreign judges and three alternates for those positions, according to article 11.

The trial court would have five judges, three of whom would be Cambodian and two of whom would be foreigners. The appeals stage would have four Cambodians and three foreigners, while five Cambodians and four foreigners would sit on the supreme court bench.

Another government official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the government has created a list of Cambodian judges and prosecutors and it has been given to the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

“We have already chosen who we want,” he said. “We are just waiting for the Supreme Council of Magistracy to approve it.”

Ly Vouch Leng, a member of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, said she is unaware of a government list and said the council has not yet discussed the selection of judges and prosecutors for a Khmer Rouge trial.

“We are waiting for the law to be promulgated before we discuss it,” she said.

Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the government must follow what is laid out in the draft law.

“That is clearly spelled out that the only institution that has the right to select judges is the Supreme Council of Magistracy,” he said.

Kao Kim Hourn added that it will be difficult for the council to find qualified Cambodian judges and prosecutors who have the experience to handle a tribunal.

“No one comes to mind,” he said.

Sok Sam Oeun said the only option was to send those chosen abroad for training in areas of international law and other issues.

“I don’t think there is anyone who can do the job now,” he said.

Ang Eng Thong said there may be judges and prosecutors who have the morals to participate in a tribunal, but lack the necessary experience.

“There are some good judges and prosecutors, but not so many,” he said.

A Legal Aid of Cambodia spokesman pointed out the opposite problem—that some judges are technically capable of presiding over a Khmer Rouge trial, but lack the morals to be fair and independent.

“A lot of judges are corrupt and not honest,” he said. “It will be difficult to fine one who is qualified and is honest at the same time.”

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh signed the Khmer Rouge draft law Wednesday and the Senate is expected to pass it within a week of receiving it, parliamentarians said.

King Norodom Sihanouk told the Prince that he had heard some NGOs were not satisfied because there was little debate on the draft law in the National Assembly before it was unanimously passed.

The Prince told his father that the government had been working on the issue for years and the draft law was written with input from the UN and others in the international community.

The King declined to say whether he approved of the draft law, which he will consider once the Senate and Constitutional Council are finished with it.

(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)

 

 

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