Controversy between Cambodian and International Lawyers over Tribunal Doesn’t End

Posted by khmernews on January 31, 2007

Phnom Penh: a disagreement between the Cambodian Bar Association and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s international lawyers has not been settled.

Mr. Ky Tech, the President of Cambodian Bar Association, said, “We have no attempt to prevent international lawyers from defending their clients in Cambodia. We allow them to do so, but they have to respect the Cambodian Bar Association’s rules.”

Mr. Ky Tech explained that the Cambodian Bar Association’s rules allows foreign lawyers to do their professional jobs in Cambodia, but they have to register and fulfill a number of conditions with the Cambodian Bar Association such as they must have recommendation letters from their countries’ bar associations which certifies that they are professional lawyers and have not been dismissed. 

“During our discussions with representatives of the international lawyers, we told them about our rules. However, after these meetings they did not tell the international lawyers about these requirements but merely said that the Cambodian Bar Association does not allow foreign lawyers to do their job in Cambodia. They did that because they wanted to deceive the general public that the Cambodian Bar Association is not good,” added Mr. Ky Tech.

He continued, “We still maintain our position because the Khmer Rouge tribunal is not an international court. It is a national court in which international judges, prosecutors and lawyers are allowed to participate. However, they have to respect Cambodian law and sovereignty. They should not ask Cambodian lawyers to register with them.”

Mr. Ky Tech asserted, “I think that a Khmer Rouge trial cannot starts if non-Cambodian lawyers do not follow the Cambodian Bar Association’s rules, because all criminal cases need lawyers to defend them. We may handover the controversy between the Cambodian and international lawyers to the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations to negotiate again.

Mr. Maonh Saphan, Deputy Chief of the Legislative Committee of the National Assembly, said that the controversy resulted because the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations did not set clear roles for non-Cambodian lawyers in their initial agreement.

He highlighted that Cambodian law specifies that only Cambodian lawyers are permitted to defend cases within a Cambodian court. Foreign lawyers can merely function as evidence providers and individual advisors to Cambodian defendant lawyers.

Mr. Maonh Saphan affirmed that to avoid being against the law, an amendment of the previous agreement should be made. Otherwise, the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations should make another short agreement which states that “In the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia, international lawyers have rights to defend their clients.”

He emphasized that previously, foreign lawyers did not respect Cambodian law because they felt that as their countries had funded the tribunal, Cambodian law was not priority so they could defend clients in the tribunal. When the Cambodian Bar Association talked about the law with them, they came into deadlock.

The president of the Cambodian Bar Association further said that a compromise will be reached if it is reasonable and does not breach Cambodia’s sovereignty and interests.

Mr. Reach Sambath, a spokesperson of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia, affirmed that both sides [Cambodian and international lawyers] have not yet found a resolution. “I think that only the tribunal’s judges and the committee that worked on producing the draft rules can decide on this issue. However, under the Cambodian law that was passed by the National Assembly, all lawyers who do their professional jobs in Cambodia must register with the Cambodian Bar Association. I am optimistic that everything will move forward,” said Reach Sambath.

Extracted from: Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.14-15, #4173, Sunday-Monday 31-01.12-01.2006-07             


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