Cambodia’s “weak and corrupt” judicial system remains a major obstacle to upholding and protecting human rights in the country, according to Amnesty International’s 2005 annual report.
“Concerns remained about the weak and corrupt judicial system,” the report, which was released on Wednesday and profiled 149 countries, stated. “High-profile cases were marked by political interference and, more broadly, there was a failure to adhere to procedures laid down in national law and international standards.”
One of the cases highlighted by Amnesty International was the trial and unlawfully long pretrial detention of four Muslim men accused of being involved in the militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.
“The conduct of the case was marked by political interference with the judiciary and lack of evidence,” the report stated. Three of the men were sentenced to life in December while one man was acquitted.
The report also focused on the killing of union leader Chea Vichea in January 2004. The investigation into Chea Vichea’s murder was marked by “judicial irregularities,” and the case fits with other politically motivated killings in that it remains unresolved, the report added.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, however, called the report “messy” and “unspecific.”
“Impunity means not convicting the criminal,” Khieu Kanharith said. “When the suspects have not been found, that is not impunity. When we do not find the criminals, they blame us. But in the Chea Vichea case, when we arrested suspects, they said they were not the right suspects.”
The report also questioned the law establishing the Khmer Rouge tribunals, saying: “Serious flaws remained which threatened the integrity of the legal process and set a dangerous precedent for other future international or ‘mixed’ tribunals.”
Helen Jarvis, of the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal taskforce, dismissed Amnesty International’s comments.
“It sounds like a broken record,” she said Thursday. “They’ve been saying the same thing for the past 10 years. I don’t think they have looked closely enough at the law.”