CAMBODIA: Functioning judiciary required for rights to become a reality

Date: October 1, 2009
Document id: ALRC-COS-12-11-2009
Speaker: Michael Anthony
HRC section: Item 10, Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

An Oral Statement to the 12th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

CAMBODIA: Functioning judiciary required for rights to become a reality

Thank you Mr. President,

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) welcomes the initial report of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, in particular the highlighted areas of priority for future work, namely: the freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary, land and housing rights, impunity and prison reform.

The ALRC wishes to take this opportunity to underline the need for an end to long-standing delays by the government in implementing provisions of the 1993 Constitution of Cambodia, in particular concerning the functioning and independence of the judiciary.

The Constitution specifically stipulates that a number of laws need to be enacted, including a law on the statute of judges and prosecutors and a law on the organization of the judiciary. However, after 16 years, these laws are still missing. As a result, Cambodians are not entitled to be tried by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal, in practice. They are being tried by judges whose status has not been defined by law and by courts whose establishment has no legal basis under the Constitution.

The government has preferred to continue to apply an outdated law on the nomination of judges and the activities of courts, enacted during the country�s communist past, which is unconstitutional, does not live up to international standards and does not ensure the independence of the judiciary. This leads to corruption, favouritism for certain judges and infringements by the Ministry of Justice and the Executive on the workings of the judiciary.

In light of this, the ALRC firstly wishes to know whether the Special Rapporteur has taken up this issue with the Cambodian authorities and whether they have responded and shown any credible intent to take action to ensure the separation of powers and an independent judiciary? Has the government provided any time-frame for the enactment of the above laws, which are essential for there to be any hope of independence of the judiciary.

Finally, you have stated sensing a disconnect between national law concerning land rights and widespread land grabbing ongoing in the country. We firmly believe that without a functioning, independent judiciary there will always be a disconnect between the law and the enjoyment of rights in practice, notably concerning the mentioned issues of priority, and support your efforts in this regard, as well as the continuation of your mandate.

Thank you.

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About ALRC

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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