NGOs Ask National Assembly To Re-Examine Judicial Laws

Civil society organizations on Thursday called on the National Assembly to invest more time in revising three controversial laws governing the judiciary, which the groups say fail to ensure greater independence in the country’s ailing court system.

The appeal comes as the National Assembly is scheduled to convene a plenary session on Tuesday to adopt the trio of laws—the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Courts and the Law on the Statue of Judges and Prosecutors.

Last month, the Council of Ministers approved the laws and sent them on to parliament.

“We want to lobby the National Assembly to offer opportunities for civil society groups discussing the three draft laws first,” said Duch Piseth, a project coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. “If we check in these draft laws, the independence of the court cannot be ensured.”

Donors and rights groups have been pressing the government for years to pass laws on judicial reform, but the latest draft laws have raised concerns that they could have an adverse affect on judicial independence, ultimately placing even more power in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Ny Chandy, director of the legal technical department at Legal Aid of Cambodia, said that if the laws are passed as they are, judicial officials would have legal control over the court’s operations.

“These draft laws are double-edged swords,” he said. “They help court officials to have proper laws to manage their institutions because they did not have such laws in the past. The negative point is that the Ministry of Justice has too much power dominating the Supreme Council of Magistracy.”

Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker, said the National Assembly would not delay next week’s plenary session to open the draft laws to scrutiny from civil society.

“Nobody can delay the meeting of the National Assembly,” he said. “The civil society groups can make amendments to the laws when they are elected to be parliamentarians.”

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