Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I am honored and delighted to participate in the opening of the national dissemination conference on the three fundamental laws related to the judiciary branch, viz. Law on the Statute of Judges and Prosecutors, Law on the Organization of the Court Organs and Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, organized by the Ministry of Justice with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Overall, today’s conference reflects the Royal Government’s new achievement in the legal and judicial sector in addition to achievements during the previous Legislature such as Criminal Code, Code for Criminal Procedures, Civil Code, Code for Civil Procedures and other laws.
The three laws are organic laws stipulated in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and considered fundamental to the independence of the judicial branch aimed to ensure its proper functioning and good judicial service for the people in line with the rule-of-law principle and in response to past drawbacks in the public and judicial service delivery that have yet to garner confidence from the public. As we are already aware, the setup of legal framework, public awareness and enforcement capacity lack comprehensiveness and are below the level desired by the Royal Government in its pursuit of a credible and stable legal and judicial system aimed to ensure respect for human rights and dignity, strengthening of the rule-of-law principle of the liberal democracy, social justice as well as environment conducive to investment. Moreover, we have witnessed the rapid development of information technology which help ensure the important and sensible role of the justice system in promoting social harmony. In this sense, the three fundamental laws have been considered priorities in the legal and judicial reform, a part of the core of the Rectangular Strategy Phase 3. Therefore, I have personally instructed H.E. Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice and his colleagues to finish the draft laws by the end of the first semester of 2014. In addition, since the three laws were closely connected, I also instructed that they should be drafted at the same time to ensure not only the harmony between the related regulations, but also consistency between policy implementation and vision of the Royal Government in its effort to implement in-depth judicial reform.
Taking this opportunity, I wish to extend my high appreciation to H.E. Mr. Ang Vong Vathna and his colleagues as well as related institutions for the concerted effort to complete the drafting of the three laws within a short time frame. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would also like to thank France for supporting the preliminary drafting of the three laws along with the drafting of the Criminal Code and Code for Criminal Procedures that make our dissemination conference possible today. This cooperation indeed helps pool intellects to find the best solution that is consistent with other laws and ensures effectiveness.
In the Fifth Legislature, the Royal Government is determined to continue implementing in-depth legal and judicial reform by focusing on: (1). Further enactment of the important laws related to the judicial body such as the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors, law on the organization and functioning of judicial body and jury, law on the amendment to the law on the organization and functioning of the supreme council of magistracy as well as development of new laws required for state governance and Cambodia’s membership in the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 and WTO, (2) further strengthening of professional capacity and responsibility of judges and prosecutors, (3) further promoting the establishment of court administration attached to tribunal at all levels, (4) further equipping the tribunals with appropriate means to perform their functions, (5) further dissemination and training of laws, (6) further cooperation and support to the Bar Association of Cambodia, (7) further promotion of out-of-court settlement mechanisms.
These are the immediate objectives of the Royal Government’s legal and judicial reform because social development means more complicated relations between the people, therefore justice service will play even more important role in ensuring and promoting the sustainable socio-economic development, especially in the context of market economy and fiercer completion in the ASEAN community.
Overall, the enactment of the three fundamental laws at the beginning of the Fifth Legislature attests to the Royal Government’s attention and commitment to further implementation of in-depth reform in the justice sector in a bid to ensure good governance and the rule of law. The three laws will help create a concrete approach for strengthening the independence of the judicial body in line with the Constitution, especially for the proper functioning of the tribunals and jury attached to tribunals, in short, the realization of effective justice service and public confidence.
I am convinced that the three laws will bring about positive change to the judicial body aimed to enhance the justice service delivery. In particular, the three laws mainly focus on reform measures as follows:
1. Strengthening the principle of judicial independence in accordance with the Constitution aimed to ensure the court’s impartiality and respect for human rights as well as better service delivery in the justice system and public confidence.
2. Establishing specialized court at low-level tribunals and specialized chamber at high-level tribunals with the aim to promote the professional capacity of judges in response to needs of social development while ensuring quality and credible trials. In addition, commercial and employment tribunals that are specialized court will be established within the court of first instance in some specific locations.
3. Establishing administration unit within all levels of tribunals aimed to enhance the effectiveness of the courts and jury and justice service delivery, especially the relation between court administration officers and people who have limited knowledge about laws and need justice service.
4. Establishing regional court of appeal to move the justice service closer to the people, reduce the bottleneck of cases at Phnom Penh’s court of appeal and help accelerate trials at supreme court.
5. Establishing principles to ensure impartial rulings of the judges, especially prohibiting the judges from trying case on which their related are involved, or the defense lawyer is their relatives. Also, the judge is also prohibited from attending the trial with another judge who is also his relative.
6. Establishing special procedures to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the decisions made by the trial court by providing special role to the His Majesty, the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia, as the President of the Supreme Council of Magistracy in requesting the Plenary Parliament of the Supreme Court to review and re-decide on any case even though the judge has already made final decision.
7. Establishing a clear and separate statute for the management and guarantee of the professionalism of judges and prosecutors. In this regard, judges and prosecutors are under a separate statute as officials of the legislative provisions and are not under the law on the statute of civil servants. The separate statute will strengthen the independence of the judges in performing their duties and help promote the dignity, integrity and moral of judges and prosecutors.
8. Organizing judges and prosecutors’ hierarchy into three ranks, i.e. Supreme Judge / Supreme Prosecutor, Colonel Judge / Colonel Prosecutor, and Deputy Judge /Deputy Prosecutor. This arrangement will establish a clear principle in the appointment of judges and prosecutors in all levels of courts and the prosecutions attached to courts.
9. Improving superiority and strengthening independence of Supreme Court institution which is the highest court in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In this sense, all judges of the Supreme Court including the president of the Supreme Court are the supreme judges and consist of no more than 25 members in principle. At the same time, as supreme judges working in the Supreme Court with a great deal of experience, the judges of the Supreme Court are not to get retired at the age of 60 as other judges, meaning the judges of the Supreme Court will only retire on personal request only. However, until the age of 65, the judges of the Supreme Court can continue performing their work only with approval of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
10. Strengthen the roles of the Supreme Council of Magistracy which assist His Majesty, the King, to ensure the independence of judicial power, especially through reorganizing the composition of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, establishing the inspecting team of Supreme Council of Magistracy, establishing independent budget package and establishing General Secretariat of Supreme Council of Magistracy in order to act as the official of administrative and financial works. Supreme Council of Magistracy is under the presidency of the His Majesty the King of Kingdom of Cambodia, and consists of 11 members.
11. Strengthening the neutrality of Supreme Council of Magistracy through the establishment of functional incompatibility of members of Supreme Council of Magistracy with roles as judges and prosecutors in the courts and public prosecution, except the President of the Supreme Court and General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court who are automatically the members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy. Identifying the functional incompatibility of Supreme Council of Magistracy is the first of step of “deep” reform in judicial system management, especially strengthening the roles of this institution, avoiding of interest disputes caused by performing the roles and preparing the permanent jobs of the members of Supreme Council of Magistracy which will enable each member to be more active in order to ensure the effectiveness of the judicial reform, and to reduce any abnormality and inactivity of judges and prosecutors.
At the same time, we have to fully understand that the attempt to improve the public and judicial service is not to provide benefit any specific person or organization. In this sense, I would like to stress that “Justice” doesn’t mean the poor has to win or the rich has to win at all, but the rich and the poor are ensured to receive the same judicial services with full equity and trust.
Overall, I think that having these three basic laws in hand and to be disseminated today is not enough to ensure the justice. Therefore, in this context, with the adoption of these three basic laws, I would like to push and encourage the Ministry of Justice to continue their efforts in taking any measures to strategically implement the reform of legal and judicial system by paying more attention on the key points as the following:
1st. Continuing the efforts in making additional laws by pushing the preparation of key laws related to judicial sector such as Law on Common Statute of Clerk, Law on Common Statute of Notary and Law on Common Statute of Bailiff. At the same time, continue paying attention to improve legal framework responding to the need of the socio-economic development through the amendment of some required laws.
2nd. Continuing promoting the operation of administrative unit at the court for the purpose of improving public services in judicial sector efficiently, especially in communication with the public.
3rd. Continuing enhancing efficiency and strengthening judicial institutions through increasing financial and working means to judicial institutions as well as promoting the use of new technology which help to increase efficiency of judicial operation.
4th. Continuing cooperating with concerned institutions to strengthen appropriate and efficient law enforcement in order to promote the rule of law, and to increase the public confidence in the judicial sector in Cambodia. Meanwhile, continued monitoring of the law enforcement by judicial and prosecution institutions by cooperating with the Supreme Council of Magistracy and other concerned institutions are aimed to reduce irregularity and inactiveness in judicial sector and continue taking the approach“looking in the mirror, taking a shower, scrubbing yourselves and treatment” to ensure the justice service in Cambodia society.
5th. Strengthening the efforts of human resource training in the area of law and judicial qualification responding to the evolution of legal and social situations in Cambodia.
6th. Continuing to widely promulgate the law through all means to the executive institution and the public in order to expand capability and understanding of law aiming to get participated from all the people in term of carrying out and compliance.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to call on all relevant ministries-institutions, development partners, private sectors, civil societies and non-governmental organizations to cooperate and support the operation of Ministry of Justice to be successful and highly efficient. At the same time, I would like to appeal all our partners to pay more attention on supporting capacities building for the institution and our official to ensure fully, equitable and trustable of public and judicial service.
Before ending, once again, I would like to thank and highly value the Ministry of Justice, German Cooperation (GIZ) and French Cooperation for actively supporting drafting of those 3 fundamental laws to have such a very significant improvement. I would like to appeal the management and civil servants of all ministries-institutions, armed forces and local authorities at all level, our citizens to actively comply with the law and regulation in force in Cambodia in the sake of dignity and the rule of law.
Finally, with the opening of National Seminar to promulgate “Law on the Common Statute of Judge and Prosecutor”, “Law on Organization of Court Organization” and “Law on Organization and Conduct of the Supreme Council of Magistracy”,I would like to wish His Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen and all participants the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness and Strength./.