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Thursday, June 17, 2010

U.N. envoy warns of failing judiciary in Cambodia+

PHNOM PENH, June 17 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Concluding a 10-day working mission in Cambodia, the U.N. special envoy on human rights in Cambodia said Thursday the country's judiciary is facing tremendous challenges.

"The judiciary in Cambodia is facing tremendous challenges in delivering justice for the people of the country, especially the poor and marginalized," Professor Surya Subedi, the U.N. special rapporteur, said.

While considering the overall state of the judicial system in Cambodia, he raised specific concerns relating to the judiciary's role in protecting freedom of expression and in cases involving land- related rights.

"I am troubled by the impact of land disputes, land concessions and resettlements on the lives of ordinary people, both in rural and urban areas, miscarriages of justice and the narrowing of political space for critical debate in society due to the disproportionate use of defamation, disinformation and incitement lawsuits against journalists, human rights activists and political opponents," he said in a statement.

He called on the government "to introduce appropriate measures to enhance the independence and capacity of the judiciary to enable it to function as an institution capable of providing justice to all in Cambodia."

"If you are poor, weak and dispossessed of your land, you seem to have limited chance to obtain redress either through existing administrative land management systems, or through the courts," he said.

Subedi did, however, welcome the adoption of a series of new laws in recent years, including a new penal code, an anticorruption law and a criminal procedure code that are designed to strengthen the system of justice.

But, he warned, a combination of a lack of adequate resources, organizational and institutional shortcomings, a lack of full awareness of the relevant human rights standards and external interference, financial or otherwise, in the work of the judiciary, has resulted in an institution that "does not command the confidence of people from many walks of life."

Subedi was on his third mission to Cambodia since being appointed special envoy last year.

During his stay, he met with Cambodian leaders including King Sihamoni, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee Om Yentieng and President of the Supreme Court Dith Munthy.

But he failed to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen despite having a prior arrangement to do so.

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