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Constitutional Council OKs Contentious Judicial Reform

Constitutional Council of Cambodia
Constitutional Council of Cambodia

Cambodia’s Constitutional Council has approved three controversial draft laws on judicial reform, despite heavy opposition from rights groups and international observers who say they will not restore the public’s faith in the courts.

Critics say the laws—passed without opposition members in the National Assembly—put too much power over the judiciary in the hands of the executive branch.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay says the laws don’t follow the principles of checks and balances provided by the consittuiton.

“We found that some articles give authority to the Minister of Justice to manage the budget of the three-tier courts, its administrative work and the appointment of prosecutors at all levels,” he said.

Nevertheless, the Constitutional Council last week said in a unanimous decision the drafts are viable and can be signed into the law.

Yem Ponhearith, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said the council was revealing a political bias toward the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in its decision.

“We know that this is a system that rejects voices from civil society and the minority [party],” he said.

Ut Chhorn, a spokesman for the Constitutional Council, said the laws give each court authority over its own finances. The justice minister arranges the budget, but the courts manage it, he said.

The drafts must next be signed into law by King Norodom Sihamoni, after which they will be promulgated through relevant administrations.