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Civil Society Wants Review of Judicial Reform Draft Laws

Supreme Council of Magistracy Cambodia
Supreme Council of Magistracy Cambodia
A coalition of more than 30 civic organizations has called on the National Assembly to delay debate on three draft laws aimed at reforming the judiciary.

Rights groups and development advocates say the draft laws have not been reviewed well enough and fall short of international standards.

Meanwhile, they are to be debated by an Assembly that lacks opposition lawmakers, who have boycotted the Assembly since July 2013’s elections.

The National Assembly is slated to review the draft laws beginning next week, namely the Law on the Organization of the Courts, the Law on Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, and the Law on the Statute of Judges and Prosecutors.

Critics say the draft laws give too much power to the Ministry of Justice and will put the Supreme Council of Magistracy—an independent body—under the influence of the executive branch of government.

“These issues, among others concerns, undermine the independence of the courts and the impartiality of judges and prosecutors,” the 34 NGOs said in a statement Friday. “As such, these three draft laws cannot guarantee the separation of power between legislative, executive and judicial branches in accordance with Article 51 of the Constitution.”

Sok Sam Oeun, head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the laws as they now stand put the judicial system “in the hands of the Ministry of Justice and the prime minister.”

Cheam Yiep, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said there will be no review of the drafts by civil society, which “always criticizes any draft law of the government.”

The drafts will be debated “without delay,” he said.