Cambodia’s judiciary is biased and unfair, lawmaker Kem Sokha told the National Assembly on Tuesday, amid angry scenes with Justice Minister Chem Snguon over the courts’ independence.
The outcry came in Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on the formation of the Constitutional Council, as lawmakers disagreed on its powers.
“The court system at present is biased, unjust and not at all independent. That includes cases related to the election,” Assembly Human Rights Commission Chairman Kem Sokha said.
The Son Sann supporter said that some political parties have encountered difficulties in registering and have not received satisfaction in the courts. He said the courts have not made fair rulings.
Kem Sokha’s comments came as Assembly members debated proposed changes to the law on the Constitutional Council that would allow it to intervene in disputes over party registration.
Kem Sokha’s party, the Son Sann faction of the divided BLDP, lost an appeal in the courts to overturn a decision awarding sole use of the BLDP name to the rival Ieng Mouly faction. Kem Sokha’s party has had to rename itself in order to register for the elections.
In an angry reply, Chem Snguon defended the reputation of the courts. “On what basis do you say that the courts are unjust and incapable?” he shouted. “You cannot groundlessly attack the judiciary because you are attacking the third pillar of power.”
The Justice Minister noted that opposition politician Sam Rainsy had staged demonstrations denouncing the court but was now filing lawsuits in the same courts.
Chem Sgnuon said party registration disputes were a matter for the courts because the Constitutional Council has only been charged with dealing with the electoral process.
But one political observer pointed out that the proposed legislation for the Council needed to refer such disputes to the body in order to be consistent with an existing law on political parties.
Otherwise, he said, it would remain unclear whether such disputes would be resolved by the courts or Council.
(Additional reporting by Rachel Watson)