UN Rights Envoy Offers Assistance to Justice Ministry

United Nations human rights envoy Surya Subedi offered training and other technical support to Cambodia’s judicial system during a brief meeting at the Ministry of Justice yesterday, an official said.

Mr Subedi began his third visit to Cambodia June 8 to examine the country’s judicial system and is scheduled to leave Thursday.

Prom Sidhra, a secretary of state at the Ministry, said he met with both Mr Subedi and Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. During their 30-minute meeting, he said, they discussed ways the UN could help train staff and aid the government’s efforts to implement newly ratified laws, including the Penal Code.

“They said that they will provide technical training to our staff-judges, court clerks and prosecutors,” Mr Sidhra said. “[Mr Subedi] said he just wants to understand our judicial and court systems in Cambodia.”

Mr Sidhra said he appreciated the UN’s help, which has already included efforts to disseminate information about the country’s laws. He added, however, that “it would be better if they could provide more equipment and financial support to the courts in rural areas of Cambodia.”

Some non-government groups, meanwhile, said Cambodia’s courts needed help of another kind.

What Cambodia’s legal system really needed from the UN, said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the free legal aid Cambodian Defenders Project, was help reforming the very system by which the courts are run.

Mr Sam Oeun highlighted the need for a more active Supreme Council of Magistracy, which Cambodian law charges with making decisions on all judicial appointments, transfers, promotions, suspensions and disciplinary actions. He also noted the need to raise the salaries of court staff and clarify exactly which authority court prosecutors must answer to.

Other organizations have even urged Mr Subedi to look beyond the courts.

In a press statement last week, local rights group Adhoc urged the UN rights envoy to look into economic land concessions, which NGOs blame for the illegal eviction of thousand of families across the country.

“Adhoc has already asked him [Mr Subedi] to raise land issues, and he said he would,” said Adhoc president Thun Saray, who briefly met with Mr Subedi last week. “As we know, land issues are affecting many Cambodians and many people are suffering because of the land issues.”

Mr Peschoux declined to speak about yesterday’s meeting at the Justice Ministry, referring questions to Mr Subedi. Mr Subedi, however, said he was too busy to speak when reached by phone yesterday evening.

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