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Courts Suffer From Political Structure: Legal Experts

Cambodia’s judicial system remains a political structure with little hope for reform unless the leadership and the system changes, leading democracy advocates said Thursday.

“If the leader wants to hold the position of leader, there needs to be a change to his policy regarding the court system in providing independence to the courts,” said Seng Theary, head of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “Otherwise, we as citizens need to mobilize to express a peaceful voice and our right to vote.”

The courts have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as they’ve shouldered criticism for political bias and corruption. Rights groups say many people have lost faith in the judiciary, where decisions often lean toward the rich or powerful.

A change in structure is needed, Seng Theary said.

“The leader now, he does not have the willingness to reform the court system, because the court system is a political tool,” she said. “So why would he need to reform it?”

Seng Theary, who is also a lawyer, said the judges she meets are good people but are limited in the work they can do, even if they want things to change.

“They know what the problem is, because their choice in daily life is to be corrupt and commit injustices, or abandon their lives and their families,” she said.

Am Sam Ath, a rights monitor for Licadho who also joined “Hello VOA” Thursday, said judges and prosecutors are appointed by royal decree, but they are nominated by the government, so they can be fired, putting them under political pressure.

“So when they work as appointed from power in politics…what do they consider?” he said. “That’s why we now see the court system under pressure of politicians, and that’s why it’s very hard to drag the court to independence.”