Hun Sen Creates Task Force To Review Courts

Acting on a request from the Interior Ministry, Prime Minister Hun Sen has created a special task force to review apparent “irregularities” in criminal cases before the nation’s courts, including the Aug 31 acquittal of a senior ex-military police woman suspected of being involved in a brutal acid attack.

Police and officials at the Justice Ministry said yesterday that the 26-member panel would investigate cases that court officers are suspected of having mishandled.

“Previously, the police have made lots of arrests and sent the suspects to court. But in some courts, and before some court officials who claim a lack of evidence, they have released them all,” said Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, the In­terior Ministry’s spokesman.

“In some robbery and human trafficking cases, such as the case of Chea Ratha, the competent officers had worked very hard but the courts released them,” he added.

The Interior Ministry revealed early this month that former national military police deputy chief of staff Chea Ratha has three times been unsuccessfully prosecuted for her alleged involvement in acid attacks. The Municipal Court last month acquitted her in absentia and also acquitted six others of charges they were involved in the May 8 acid attack on Ya Soknim, the aunt of model In Solyda who claimed she had been coerced to remain in a relationship with the jealous Ms Ratha.

The rights group Licadho said the acquittals were “yet another blatant display of Cambodia’s rampant impunity.”

In a Sept 4 letter obtained on Monday, the prime minister named Justice Ministry Under­secretary of State Ith Rady to head the newly formed panel and Deputy National Police Com­missioner Kang Sok­han and Deputy National Military Police Commander Sin Sophany as deputy chairmen.

“When necessary, the [task force] can copy the case file for inspection, analysis and evaluation of the [court’s] action in each case,” the letter states, adding that the prime minister is to be consulted when serious wrongdoing is suspected.

“In any instance of case files involving serious conditions or complications, these must be reported to the head of the Royal Government for review and recommendation.”

A member of the investigative body of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, a nine-member council of jurists whose duties include disciplinary actions against court officers, said that the courts could be undermined if police and civil servants are permitted to review their actions.

“It is not common at all for a government branch to get access to the case file of the court,” the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak. “It is going to tear the courts apart. It is a threat to the judges against carrying out their duties.”

Courts will no longer be able to drop charges against the innocent but will instead feel obliged to detain them in spite of the merits of their cases, the official added.

Mr Rady declined to discuss the specific actions to be taken by the new task force but he said that he did not believe it would hinder the freedom of the courts.

“Whatever decision they make, this is their own job,” he said.

Interior Ministry Penal Police Chief Mok Chito, also a member of the new task force, declined yesterday to discuss the possibility of reinvestigating the Chea Ratha case but he said that he hoped the Appeal Court would overturn her acquittal.


Related Stories

Latest News