Insiders Doubt Effectiveness of Court Crackdown

The Battambang Provincial Court’s unprecedented decision to charge three judges, as well as six other court officials, on allegations of taking bribes was re­ceived with mixed reaction by legal experts on Friday.

Battambang’s chief prosecutor Yam Yet said Thursday that he charged Stung Treng Provincial Court Judge Hing Thirith and Phnom Penh Municipal Court judges Kong Sarith and Ham Mengse on April 25.

The three, along with three pro­s­ecutors, are charged with taking bribes, allegedly in ex­change for r­eleasing suspected cri­mi­nals, he said. Three court clerks have been charged with being accomplices.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive di­rec­­tor of the Cambodian De­fen­der’s Project, said this is the first time in his recollection that jud­ges have been charged with crimes.

While he said he “appreciated” that court officials were being held accountable to the law, he be­lieved they should not be prosecuted by their peers.

“We do not have a special court to charge them,” Sok Sam Oeun said Friday.

“When [they are pro­s­ecuted by people of the] same po­sition, there would not be much trust from the public if the court found that the accused were not guilty,” he said.

Lawyer Kao Soupha said Fri­day that the practice of taking bribes is widespread among the courts.

“I think that the charge [faced by the three judges] should be made for every court official all over the country,” he said.

One court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the charging of court officials will not con­tribute to judicial re­form, but will instead intimidate judges and pre­vent them from act­ing independently.

“Such an action is not a resolution, but is pushing the court into a corner so that it cannot make any judgments,” the official said.

“It is seriously damaging to the reputation of the legal system in the country,” the official added.


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