Ministry Promises Punishment For Judges Who Act Arbitrarily

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said Thursday that the Supreme Council of Magistracy, which is in charge of personnel in the country’s courts, would punish judges found to be making arbitrary decisions, following a speech by the justice minister earlier this week.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said during a closed-door meeting between court and police officials in Phnom Penh on Tuesday that some judges were making decisions based on their mood and emotions in a given case.

Explaining why there were drastically different sentences handed down in seemingly similar rape cases—ranging from two to 20 years for the crime—Mr. Vong Vathana said “it might be the court and I am not sure why.”

“Maybe it is up to the judge or the court; some days if he is happy, he reduces the punishment. Or if the judge sees a woman and feels sympathy, while the perpetrator’s face is mocking, they hand down [the decision] they want to,” the justice minister said.

“This is an issue we need to solve together,” he said.

Chin Malin, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said Thursday that the justice minister had made it clear that such rulings would no longer be tolerated, and that judges who continued to make arbitrary decisions would be punished.

“For judges and prosecutors who [make decisions based on] their feelings or do not comply with the law or do not issue proper verdicts, there will be punishment…and they will face criminal charges,” Mr. Malin said.

“The Supreme Council of Magistracy will check the implementation of the law,” he said.

Sam Pracheameanith, secretary-general of the Supreme Council, said the body would remain vigilant in monitoring the country’s courts. However, he declined to say if any judges or prosecutors have been punished for making capricious decisions this year.

“The discipline council will check and if there are no complaints, there will be no punishment for judges,” he said.

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