The Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement Monday welcoming a recently introduced code of ethics for Cambodian judges, but expressing concern that the new guidelines will not be enforced.
The code, adopted by the Supreme Council of Magistracy in February, states that judges should act independently and be politically neutral, although they may participate in government commissions.
The code, a copy of which was received Monday, also states that judges should not make decisions based on someone’s race, gender, political tendency or economic and social situation.
Hong Kong-based AHRC said that if the code was enforced, it could become a remedy to “pandemic corruption” in the judiciary. However, the AHRC “is very much concerned that this code will encounter the same fate as that of other laws in Cambodia, whose implementation is weak and depends on the erratic ‘political will’ of the country’s leadership,” the statement said.
The code states that judges should not accept evidence against defendants that has been obtained through illegal means such as torture, and should bring the perpetrator of the torture before the court. It adds that judges should not use their authority to elicit gifts or loans. Judges cannot hear any cases where the lawyer has a close personal relationship with them, and they may not conduct private business.
Ke Sakhorn, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said all judges and prosecutors at his court have begun implementing the code, and are studying it during classes at the Royal School of Judges and Prosecutors.
Heng Samrin, National Assembly and CPP honorary president, said that nobody, including judges, are without political affiliations.
“It is hard to find independent [judges],” he said. “The important thing is that [judges] must work impartially, according to the law.”