The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has voted to give itself powers over the judiciary through a set of laws that bypass both the constitution and international standards guaranteeing an independent judiciary. Citizens have long felt the effects of a politicized judiciary, suffering from partial and unjust verdicts that have reflected the hand of the government rather than the application of the rule of law. This unofficial practice has now been cemented into law through a parliament free from opposition, scrutiny and debate.
After 10 years of waiting, it took only two months for the laws to be passed through the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly and the Senate. The secretly drafted laws were tactfully announced before a national holiday, in the knowledge that interested groups and media would be absent; release dates and information were bought back and forth preventing civil society from presenting an organized response. The laws were passed through a single party National Assembly amid an opposition boycott and were finally given the seal of approval by the Senate on Friday June 13th free from amendments or review.
After analyzing these laws, it becomes clear that they are in direct violation of the most basic international standards governing principles of an independent judiciary. The laws effectively give both the legislature and the executive decision-making powers over the structure, functioning and financing of the judiciary, violating the most fundamental principle of the separation of powers. The laws ignore all recommendations regarding an independent disciplinary body, instead giving the executive automatic voting power over the promotions and disciplining of judges and prosecutors, ultimately subordinating the judiciary to the will of the executive.
The secrecy and speed with which these drafts were passed and the blatant unconstitutionality of the laws is an urgent warning of the ever tightening grip the government seeks to hold and preserve on all branches of the state, to continue to use the judiciary as a tool to repress dissident voices.
Lale Kuzu, CCHR International Intern, contributed to this blog post.