Magistracy Council to Meet for Third Time

The Supreme Council of Magistracy is scheduled to convene today for a two-day meeting—the third gathering of the group since the body was created in the 1993 Constitution.

Ti Neng, a council member, said Tuesday that the meeting is aimed at examining several issues, including the independence of the courts, the structure of the courts, and how judges are appointed.

Other topics to be discussed are the salary, competence level and retirement for judges.

Ti Neng, former undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, said he didn’t know what the outcome of the meeting would be. “I don’t know how many judges are going to be appointed and how much money is going to be given to the judicial system,” he said.

Ti Neng said the Council would not discuss a trial for former Khmer Rouge leaders or the criminal procedure code.

The nine-member Council is charged with ensuring the independence of the courts, appointing all judges and overseeing the conduct of judges.

Ti Neng denied the Council convened because of recent criticisms from Thomas Ham­marberg, the UN human rights envoy to Cambodia. He said the meeting was organized because Council members had available time.

Hammarberg, who leaves his post at the end of the year, criticized the Council in speeches to the UN General Assembly and to the National Assembly here.

“The Supreme Council of Magistracy has not fully taken its lead role to oversee the judicial system,” the UN envoy said, referring to the Constitution.

Several legal experts here agreed with Hammarberg and said the Council has met too few times and is ineffective.

“They haven’t really done anything yet,” said Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambo­dian Institute for Coopera­tion and Peace.

Ang Eng Thong, president of the Bar Association of Cambodia, said the Council should meet more often because it has its work cut out for it. “Everybody knows about corruption in the courts,” he said.

Ang Eng Thong said another problem is most of the Council members are also part of the CPP, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Senate President Chea Sim.

Only King Norodom Siha­nouk and Justice Minister Uk Vithun are council members who are not affiliated with the CPP.

The 1993 Constitution states that King Sihanouk is president of the Council, but he has been ill lately. Chea Sim will fill in for the King, Ti Neng said.

Chea Dara, a lawyer for the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the Council must also en­sure the government follow its own laws. “Every court in Cam­bodia is not independent and does not follow the laws,” he said.

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