The Supreme Council of Magistracy has accepted a complaint resubmitted on Wednesday by local rights group Adhoc on behalf of a poor family in Ratanakkiri province who allege they are the victims of an extortion attempt by court officials.
The acceptance of the documents signaled an apparent reversal for administrators at the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the country’s highest legal body, which had rejected the complaint on Friday on the grounds that the villagers who had made the complaint in Ratanakkiri had filed it through the human rights group and not in person.
Though welcoming the acceptance of the complaint, Adhoc Provincial Coordinator Pen Bonnar said that there is no legal stipulation that requires individuals to lodge complaints in person with the council. And neither is there a law barring a human rights group from lodging such a complaint on behalf of a poor family, as was claimed by a member of the council’s administration department on Tuesday.
“Now the matter is whether our complaint, which is addressed to his highly respected King [Norodom] Sihamoni as president of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, will be acted upon by the officials under his superiority,” Mr Bonnar said.
The complaint relates to an alleged demand for $500 by a clerk and judge at the Ratanakkiri court in order to convene the hearing of a former drug user who has been held in prison for two years without trial.
The complaint was lodged by the mother and aunt of the jailed youth, Keo Seila, who was detained in prison for shoving his grandmother and breaking furniture at his home while under the influence of drugs.
Ratanakkiri court clerk Yorn Than has admitted twice to a reporter that he asked the women for the cash, but has twice alleged that he was ordered to do so by his superior, Judge Lou Sousambath.
Judge Sousambath has not answered his mobile phone since the women lodged their complaint and has not responded to requests for comment since last week.
Iv Horng, director of the Supreme Council’s Administration Department, clarified earlier comments and said on Wednesday that the council does accept complaints lodged by non-governmental organizations on behalf of complainants when they are written clearly.
Mr Horng said that he was told the original Adhoc submission was made on Friday by post and addressed to the wrong department, which led to confusion and non-acceptance.
“We welcome all complaints lodged by NGOs, including complaints lodged by Adhoc, but the complaint must be written clearly and to whom,” he said.
Kong Pisey, chief technical advocate for the free legal aid organization the Cambodia Defenders Project, said on Wednesday that there is no law that states submissions to the Supreme Council require specific stamps of authentication or must be written in a particular way, as was also claimed.
“If the complaint has the fingerprint of the plaintiff, and it is lodged by a person who has been granted the right to file the complaint, the complaint is valid,” Mr Pisey said, adding that it was the responsibility of such bodies to accept such complaints and that it was not their role to discriminate against submissions.
Pen Bonnar denied on Wednesday that the first, rejected complaint was sent by the postal service.