Judiciary Criticized by Rights Group

Human rights group Amnesty International blasted the government in a report released Wednes­day for Cambodia’s weak court system and the government’s failure to reform its legal institutions.

The group urged international donors who are meeting today and Friday in Phnom Penh to continue pressing the government to implement changes to its judiciary.

“Poor facilities, low salaries, executive interference, lack of education and training, and weak and poorly enforced legislation combine to produce a judicial system in which people have no confidence, and which daily fails in its duties and responsibilities,” the report states.

“[The weak judiciary] also prevents the delivery of justice for the crimes of the past, and in effect prevent the court from acting as a credible deterrent against the commission of crimes in the future.”

Besides countless human rights violations alleged by Amnesty International, the lack of a strong judiciary has the potential to hinder foreign investment in Cam­bodia and has stalled the trial of surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.

In one case of “executive interference” in the judicial process, the report stated that Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an order in De­cem­ber 1999 to rearrest suspected armed robbers, drug dealers and kidnappers who had previously been released by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Between December 1999 and February 2000, police rearrested 70 people—some of whom had already been tried and released or were free on bail.

While the government has been heavily criticized for its lack of concrete judicial reforms, the report also urged donor countries and agencies to take stronger measures against the government during the Consultative Group meeting this week.

Most importantly, the report recommended that the donors set up “benchmarks” for judicial reforms to “ensure accountability” when the donors provide financial and technical aid to the government.


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