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Lawyers Address Penal Code, Tribunal on 'Hello VOA'

Ang Udom, head of the legal unit for the Center for Social Development, and Ouk Vandeth, a lawyer for the International Bridge of Justice group, said Monday they shared a concern with other groups that a newly drafted penal code could outstrip a Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The tribunal, which was formed under the old laws, could run into snags once the new penal code passes debate in the National Assembly, they said.

The draft law will be effective immediately following its passage, Ang Udom said, leaving little time to solve conflicts between the law and the tribunal.

Ouk Vandeth said he wasn't as concerned about the tribunal as he was for the Cambodian courts and people. In a draft of the law, he said, was less freedom for the defendant's rights to a lawyer and provisions for longer detention without trial.

The new law allows detention of suspects for up to 48 hours without a lawyer present, twice the time of the current law. In 48 hours, the lawyers said, a suspect could be coerced into a confession, among other abuses.

Ang Udom said the court was only an institution, and its independence was up to individual judges and prosecutors. He encouraged victims of crimes to speak out.