Thursday, June 17, 2010

UN says poor lose out in Cambodian courts

from AFP

The UN special rapporteur for human rights urged Cambodia on Thursday to boost judicial independence as he warned that courts faced "tremendous challenges" in providing justice for the poor.

Surya Subedi said a range of issues, including external interference in proceedings and a lack of awareness of human rights standards, meant the public did not have confidence in the legal system.

Wrapping up a 10-day fact-finding mission on the workings of the courts system -- which has faced accusations of corruption and political tampering in the past -- Surya said obtaining justice for the poor and marginalised was a particular problem.

The UN representative said he was "troubled" by the impact of land disputes and resettlement on ordinary people.

"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 system, or through the court," he told a press conference.

Cambodia has faced mounting criticism over the past few years because of a spate of forced evictions throughout the country at the hands of army and police.

Surya -- who was appointed last year after his predecessor Yash Ghai resigned following a war of words with the government -- also expressed concern about the "narrowing of the political space for critical debate" because of the disproportionate use of court actions.

Rights groups have heavily criticised authorities in the past year for launching a number of defamation and disinformation law suits against critics and opposition members.

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