New Supreme Council Rules Aim to Ensure Impartiality

Members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the country’s highest judicial body, are no longer allowed to hold positions in the courts under new rules designed to reform the judiciary, according to the council’s secretary-general.

Sam Pracheameanith said Friday that judges and prosecutors who are elected to the 11-member Supreme Council, which is headed by King Norodom Sihamoni, must abandon their other judicial positions. 

“Any member taking up a position at the Supreme Council of Magistracy must disassociate themselves from their roles as trial judges and prosecutors at municipal or provincial courts,” Mr. Prachea­mea­nith said.

“They cannot handle or try any case at the court because they need to come and work at the Supreme Council of Magistracy to examine and monitor the process at various courts and they are in charge of disciplinary matters.”

Mr. Pracheameanith said the new rule was first introduced in November to ensure the impartiality of council members.

“[Previously], when there was an allegation of any misconduct by judges or prosecutors, it seemed like [council members] played many roles—as the football player, goalkeeper and referee too—by having a position at court and at the Supreme Council of Magistracy,” he said.

“So it needed to change. If it did not, it would affect the process.”

However, Mr. Pracheameanith said that both the president and the chief prosecutor at the Supreme Court were exempt from the ban.

Prominent human rights lawyer Sok Sam Ouen said he supported the move as, under the Constitution, the top Supreme Court officials must also sit on the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

“But the other members, we want them to work full-time…otherwise they don’t work at all, they just sit [on the council],” he said.

“The second point is to avoid conflict of interest,” he added. “For example, if you sit for the Appeal Court and another judge on the Appeal Court is impeached, you could have a conflict of interest.”

(Additional reporting by Holly Robertson)

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