IBAHRI report highlights extent of corruption in the Cambodian judiciary

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In a report released today, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) exposes the extent of corrupt influence – both political and financial – which is exerted over the judiciary of Cambodia and its impact on human rights cases. The IBAHRI calls on the Cambodian government to rectify, both in law and practice, the situation that allows the authorities to place political pressure on the judiciary and to address the endemic corruption within the Cambodian legal system.

Justice versus corruption: Challenges to the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia, documents the findings of an IBAHRI delegation that visited Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in April 2015.  The delegation was convened to undertake an in-depth examination of the Cambodian judiciary in light of three newly passed judicial laws. The IBAHRI has previously expressed concern at the negative effect these laws will have on the independence of the judiciary and the excessive transfer of power from the judiciary to the executive that they allow.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Hans Corell said, ‘Cambodia is a country whose institutions were almost completely destroyed during the reign of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and, though it ended more than 35 years ago, its effect is still very much evident in the country’s administration of justice. The important task of institution building is still underway; however, instead of enshrining an independent judicial system, embodying the separation of powers, the Cambodian government of today has preferred to cement its control and codified the politicisation of judicial decision-making through its three judicial laws. As a result it appears that ordinary Cambodians have little trust in the judicial system and its institutions.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy added, ‘Though many challenges remain, if the three new laws are amended and the relevant stakeholders are appropriately engaged, the IBAHRI is hopeful that public trust in legal institutions can be built. With the right amount of support and desire from the authorities, Cambodia’s legal professionals can begin to play a positive role in protecting individual rights and delivering justice for all Cambodians. The IBAHRI report sets out a number of recommendations with the aim of contributing to an effective and independent legal profession in Cambodia.’

The IBAHRI report sets out a number of recommendations to enhance safeguards for the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia. The IBAHRI report recommends that:

  1. The Government commit to ensuring and safeguarding the separation of powers in Cambodia and to respecting the independence of the judiciary and the bar;
  2. The Government and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy ensure that women are given the same opportunities to progress in their careers as male counterparts;
  3. The Government give support to civil society, NGOs and others to monitor and publicise shortcomings of all branches of the state;
  4. The Supreme Council of the Magistracy take active steps to tackle corruption in the Cambodian judiciary;
  5. The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia ensures it conducts itself entirely independently of the Cambodian government.

Click here to download Justice versus corruption: Challenges to the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia (English text).

Click here to download Justice versus corruption: Challenges to the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia (Khmer text).

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  1. In July 2014, the IBAHRI held a high-level press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with the then UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Ms Gabriela Knaul, to express its concern at the controversial draft laws, which were subsequently enacted. These three laws are:
         i. The Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy;
         ii. The Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors; and
         iii. The Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Courts

    At the time, the IBAHRI argued that these laws would provide an excessive transfer of power from the judiciary to the executive in the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia. Click here for more information on this high-level press conference. tinyurl.com/ocdy4tu
     
  2. The report, Justice versus corruption: Challenges to the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia, is the result of a fact-finding mission to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which took place from 21–26 April 2015. During the week-long mission, the IBAHRI held 19 meetings with more than 40 key stakeholders comprised of: a cross-section of the Cambodian judiciary, including judges of the Cambodian Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court; representatives of the Ministry of Justice; representatives of the CNRP (the main opposition party in Cambodia); representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia; representatives of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia; representatives of Cambodian and international NGOs; several Cambodian lawyers; residents of the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh; campaigners; and the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Phnom Penh.

    An analysis of applicable domestic and international legal instruments, secondary sources, including NGO and UN human rights reports, academic articles and media reports was also undertaken.
     
  3. The delegation fact-finding delegation was comprised of:
         i. Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor of Law, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
         ii. Judicial Justice Brenda Edwards, Judicial Justice, Victoria's Integrated Court, Canada
         iii. Dr Phillip Tahmindjis, Director, IBAHRI
         iv. Nadia Hardman, Programme Lawyer, IBAHRI
         v. Mark Wassouf, Barrister Doughty Street Chambers, London
     
  4. The report was compiled in accordance with the Guidelines on International Human Rights Fact-Finding Visits and Reports (the ‘Lund-London Guidelines’). For more information on the Lund-London Guidelines, visit: www.factfindingguidelines.org.
     
  5. The International Bar Association(IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies, it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington, DC, US, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court Programme(IBA ICC) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
     
  6. Twitter handle: @IBAHRI

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