Friday, August 24, 2007

Executive meddling in the ECCC

Just as the Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) are getting into the meat of their work, with the prosecutors' introductory submissions filed last month, the executive has transferred Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng to the position of President of the Cambodian Court of Appeal. Yesterday, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights in Cambodia Yash Ghai and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Leandro Despouy slammed the executive branch for this move, stating that "the replacement of the Appeal Court President was done at the request of the executive branch of the government in contravention of the separation of executive and judicial powers specified in the Constitution." (The Constitution empowers only the Supreme Council of Magistracy to transfer judges.) This move sends several concerning messages. First, it says to the other Cambodian judges in the ECCC that they are under the control of the executive, and can be transferred at the whim of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Second, it tells the tribunal staff, national and international, that the executive can delay the process whenever it pleases -- a real concern for the ECCC, whose three-year mandate is ticking past. Perhaps most importantly, this move signals to the rest of the Cambodian judiciary and the world that the Cambodian government is all too willing to deny the "essential protections provided to judges, including guarantees of tenure, that enable judges to administer, and be seen to administer justice efficiently, impartially and fairly, free of political interference."

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