Kingdom, South Korea treaty on legal assistance takes effect

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Justice ministry secretary of state and spokesman Chin Malin. Heng Chivoan

A senior official at the Ministry of Justice said treaty on legal assistance in criminal matters between Cambodia and friendly countries was of importance in strengthening cooperation, prevent offences or cross-border crimes, while a civil society organisation is worried that it can be a political tool curb an anti-government movement from abroad.

Justice ministry secretary of state and spokesman Chin Malin made the remarks as the ministry announced the details of such treaty between Cambodia and South Korea that would take effect on February 24.

Malin said the comprehensive cooperation treaty comprised three articles.

The first article establishes mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, the second allows for transfer of prisoners and the third is on ratification of the treaty.

“The treaty strengthens cooperation in the area of criminal justice and will assist both governments in the suppression of cross-border criminal offences. Through this treaty we will have enhanced information exchange, cooperation in the execution of arrest warrants and cooperation in the exchange of legal documents with the necessary legal procedures in place for all of this to occur enacted by law in each country,” he said.

He added that the mutual assistance treaty was important for strengthening cooperation between signatory countries in curbing and suppressing offences and cross-border crimes.

“In the past, Cambodia has had agreements on mutual assistance in policing and criminal justice with the countries in the ASEAN region and some other friendly countries. We will continue to strive to negotiate and sign these treaties with all friendly countries that we cooperate with,” Malin said.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun agreed that cooperative treaties on criminal justice matters between Cambodia and friendly countries was a positive thing and that it would increase the effectiveness of the legal authorities in Cambodia.

However, he cautioned that if this increased effectiveness was then used as a political tool it would be a violation of human rights and an anti-democratic move by Cambodia’s government.

“If this treaty is used a political tool in order to suppress any political movements who are part of the opposition to the government or the ruling party then this agreement will be restricting our rights and freedoms.

“There is a danger that this treaty could be used to violate Cambodian’s human rights and to diminish the strength of democracy in Cambodia, especially as it could affect some Khmer political activists who are in South Korea at present,” he said.

King Norodom Sihamoni issued a royal proclamation promulgating the Law on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Korea on November 14, 2020.

The law’s stated aim is to define mutual legal assistance in matters of criminal justice between Cambodia and foreign states by establishing relevant procedural processes concerning criminal offences, as well as for the freezing of assets and seizure of properties, with the purpose of strengthening and expanding possibilities for international cooperation.