Unclear Wording in Draft Law Raises Concern

The Ministry of Justice is considering a draft law that could potentially expand the jurisdiction of the Military Court exponentially, ac­cording to several NGOs and a copy of the draft law obtained Thursday.

According to one clause buried deep within “The Law on the Or­ganization of the Courts,” the military court could be given jurisdiction in any case involving the “people’s security,” a term which is not defined in the text of the law.

“The military court has the jurisdiction to hear cases regarding the violation of the people’s security which needs to be vanquished by the criminal law,” reads chapter six, article 109 of an unofficial translation of the Khmer version of the law.

Rights groups on Thursday blasted the wording of the proposed law.

“This is extremely dangerous and vague,” said Kek Galabru, president of Licadho. “We hope the government will reconsider the draft.”

She argued that the law, as currently phrased, is in violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, of which she said Cambodia is a signatory.

Sok Sam Oeun, head of the Cam­­bodian Defenders Project, also worried about the vagueness of “people’s security.”

“They should make a more clear definition,” he said, suggesting that the vagueness of the term could lead to its abuse by corrupt or politically partisan court officials.

The law should clearly specify who could be tried under the “people’s security” clause, Sok Sam Oeun said.

Officials at the Ministry of Justice declined to comment on article 109 Thursday.

“We are technicians, we are not policymakers,” said Justice Min­istry Secretary of State Kassie Neou when asked about the possible ramifications of the article.

Ministry of Justice Secretary of State Hy Sophea said he had only browsed the unofficial draft and had not yet read article 109.

“It is only a draft,” he said. “We will make some changes after we have some recommendations.”


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