Lawmakers Seek Judicial Council Changes

In an effort to push for legal and judicial reforms, the National Assembly will propose a draft law changing the makeup of the much-criticized Supreme Council of Magistracy, which is meant to be the country’s independent ju­dicial body, an Assembly lawmaker said Tuesday. 
The Assembly’s draft law, which proposes to change the membership of the council to include members of the As­sem­bly, the Senate, the Constitutional Coun­cil, NGOs and members of the Bar Association, is a reaction to a law drafted by the government that has been characterized as merely cosmetic.
“We want to reform the Su­preme Council of Magistracy so it can function more independently,” said Monh Sophan, the head of the Assembly’s Legislation Com­mission and a member of Fun­cinpec.
Speaking to reporters outside the Assembly, Monh Sophan said the legislative commission, which has already held extensive debate on the issue, also will propose a law to change the complaint procedure to make it easier for people to accuse judges of wrongdoing.
The eight-member council, headed by King Norodom Si­ha­nouk, is the country’s highest ju­di­cial body. It is responsible for ap­pointing mem­bers to the Con­sti­tutional Coun­cil as well as reprimanding judges.
The council, whose members in­clude Supreme Court head Dith Munty and Minister of Jus­tice Neav Si­thong, has been criticized for be­ing heavily influenced by the ruling CPP.
Son Soubert, a member of the Constitutional Council, said on Tuesday that since the magistracy council appoints three members to the Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil, it should not in­clude any mem­bers of the Con­sti­tutional Coun­cil.
“It would be inappropriate to include members of the Con­sti­tu­tional Council, the National As­sembly or the Senate to serve as members of the Supreme Coun­cil of Magistracy—this has to be independent of political influence,” Son Soubert said.
The commission’s draft law proposals came after the Council of Ministers submitted earlier this year its own draft laws looking at reforms in the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
The government’s laws propose to establish a general-secretariat, a separate administrative department and an independent budget for the magistracy council, Monh Sophan said. Currently, the administrative functions of the council are handled by the Min­istry of Justice.
The government’s proposal, however, will not ensure any in­de­pendence, said Funcinpec lawmaker Klok Buddhi, secretary of the commission.
“We told [the government] that this is not real reform—how would they enforce real reform?” he said.
The Assembly, which closed its session on Tuesday after failing again to achieve a quorum, is scheduled to reconvene in three months but probably won’t be­cause of the July elections.
Under the reform benchmarks set by the international donors at their July meet­ing, the government was scheduled to send a draft law on reforming the Su­preme Council of Magistracy to the Assembly last year.
The government has failed so far to meet that goal as well as other legal and judicial reform benchmarks, such as creating a legal and judicial reform strategy.

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