The government said yesterday that it would review the UN human rights envoy’s recent report on the state of the judiciary in Cambodia before deciding whether to implement any of its recommendations.
Surya Subedi, the special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, recommended that large-scale changes be made to Cambodia’s legal institutions to improve the independence and competence of the judiciary in a report published by the UN Human Rights Council over the weekend.
Among his recommendations were for the executive to be stripped of any responsibility in determining who is appointed to the Supreme Council of Magistracy, for members of the judiciary to cease being members of political parties, and for public figures to stop using the courts to silence their critics through criminal defamation and disinformation lawsuits.
Mr Subedi’s report asked the government to set a “clear timetable” to implement the recommendations. But yesterday, Cambodian Human Rights Committee Deputy Chairman Mak Sambath said that the government would need to review the report to see whether the recommendations were relevant.
“The government will take [the report] and check on some of the points he has raised,” Mr Sambath said, adding that he believed the government had already started work on several of the recommendations, including reform of the court system.
In reference to Mr Subedi’s recommendations to improve the independence of the judiciary, however, Justice Ministry Secretary of State Prom Sidhra said yesterday that he did not know of any examples where the government influenced the court system. “Our government is working very hard to reform the judicial system,” he added.
Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in an e-mail yesterday that his office was at the disposal of the government to help implement Mr Subedi’s recommendations.
“The recommendations of the Special Rapporteur are guiding our work, as they ought to guide the work of the government to which they are addressed,” Mr Peschoux said.
“The Special Rapporteur’s report and recommendations have been shared with the government and, while there may not be agreement about everything, both parties are committed to working together towards addressing the issues identified. We are at the disposal of the government to assist in this process and will certainly explore, with our interlocutors, practical avenues to make this happen.”
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said yesterday that he would be surprised if the government rejected Mr Subedi’s report, as a lot of the recommendations were similar to the goals of the council for judicial and legal reform.
“There are still a lot of questions about whether the government has the political will to implement the recommendations, and for that, we will have to wait and see,” Mr Sam Oeun added.