Cambodia’s human rights groups are continuing to seek ways to prevent three draft judicial reform bills from becoming law.
The drafts have already passed the National Assembly, but they have not been signed by the king.
Critics say the drafts are missing an opportunity to create an independent judiciary that is trusted by the public. The current drafts, they say, do no such thing. Instead, the new laws give power to the Ministry of Justice, in the executive branch, over the work of judges and prosecutors in the judicial branch. This, in turn, will hurt the courts’ independence, they say.
“If we carry out this law, the courts in Cambodia will belong to and work for the people in power,” said Ny Chakrya, head of legal aid for the rights group Adhoc.
He and other representatives for more than 20 NGOs met at a workshop on Thursday, to discuss ways the judiciary might still be reformed. Groups have already called on the Constitutional Council, who has last word on the laws before they go to the king, to challenge them.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Thursday the laws are not constitutional and should be thrown out.
Sok Sam Ouen, head of the Cambodian Defenders Project and coordinator for the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said the executive branch would be able to “dip its hand” into the judicial branch once the laws come into effect.
However, Chheang Von, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the new laws do provide “deep reform” of the courts, and the NGOs “lack knowledge” about reform.