A coalition of 21 Cambodian rights organizations issued a statement on Friday calling for all Khmer Rouge tribunal judges and prosecutors to publicly sever all affiliations with political parties.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, which includes rights groups such as Licadho, Adhoc, the Cambodian Defenders Project and Legal Aid of Cambodia, also called for additional training for the 17 Cambodian judges and prosecutors who were selected to the tribunal.
“People will be suspicious of judges and prosecutors being biased if they are involved in political parties,” Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun said on Sunday.
“If there are any national judges and prosecutors [who] are affiliated, [they] should resign from political parties,” Sok Sam Oeun said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in a public speech on Thursday branded as “animals” those who questioned the appointment of the Khmer Rouge tribunal officials.
On Friday, legal analyst Lao Mong Hay claimed that all 17 Cambodian appointees are members of Hun Sen’s ruling CPP and that Ney Thol, a judge in the tribunal’s pre-trial chamber, is a member of the ruling party’s powerful central committee.
Ny Chakrya, chief of monitoring for Adhoc, said that he had previously seen judges and prosecutors named to the Khmer Rouge tribunal participating in political campaigning during elections.
He declined on Sunday to name the individual officials or which party or parties they had campaigned for.
He also defended the rights of people to question the selection process for the tribunal. “This is the right of the individual to criticize. It is simple,” he said.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Sean Visoth, the tribunal’s administration office director, responded to a question regarding the political affiliations of the Cambodian appointees by stating that the UN and Cambodia had no guidelines regarding party affiliation.
Ministry of Justice Secretary of State Tuot Lux said on Sunday that, according to the Constitution, judges and prosecutors are free to participate in politics outside of office hours. “There is no law to prevent judges and prosecutors from joining political parties,” Tuot Lux said. “[But] they must be independent during their work,” he added.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also confirmed that party political campaigning is within judges’ rights outside of court hours.
“We selected the judges and prosecutors based on their experiences and capabilities, not political parties,” he said.