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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Royal Cambodian Government (RCG), a constitutional monarchy formed on the basis of elections internationally recognized as free and fair, was established on September 24, 1993. King Norodom Sihanouk remains the constitutional monarch and Head of State. Most power lies within the executive branch and, although its influence continues to grow within the coalition structure, the National Assembly does not provide a significant check to executive power. The Khmer Rouge no longer is a political or military threat.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The Cambodian court system consists of lower courts, an appeals court, and a Supreme Court. The Constitution also mandates a Constitutional Council, which is empowered to review the constitutionality of laws, and a Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which appoints, oversees, and disciplines judges. The composition of both of these bodies is viewed widely as biased toward the CPP. There is a separate military court system.

Trials are public. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney, to confront and question witnesses against them, and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. However, trials typically are perfunctory, and extensive cross examination usually does not take place. In 1998 the introduction of newly trained lawyers, many of whom received supplemental training by NGO's, resulted in significant improvements for those defendants provided with counsel, including a reduced pretrial detention period and improved access to bail; however, there remained a critical shortage of trained lawyers in most parts of the country--especially outside Phnom Penh.

In July 2001 a law entered into force establishing a special tribunal to bring Khmer Rouge leaders to justice for genocide and war crimes committed from 1975 through 1979. The Government is seeking assistance and cooperation from the United Nations and will need financial assistance from foreign donors to make the tribunal operational.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights The Cambodian Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in a few areas in 2001; however, its record was poor in many other areas, and serious problems remained. The military forces and police were responsible for both political and nonpolitical killings, and the Government rarely prosecuted anyone in such cases. There were other apparently politically motivated killings by nonsecurity force persons as well. The Government arrested suspects in some of these cases and convicted suspects in two such cases. Police acquiesced in or failed to stop lethal violence by citizens against criminal suspects; the Government rarely investigated such killings, and impunity remained a problem. There were credible reports that members of the security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise abused persons in custody, often to extract confessions. Prison conditions remained harsh, and the Government continued to use arbitrary arrest and prolonged pretrial detention. Impunity for many who commit human rights abuses remained a serious problem. With some exceptions, national and local government officials lacked the political will and financial resources to act effectively against members of the security forces suspected of responsibility for human rights abuses. Democratic institutions, especially the judiciary, remained weak. The judiciary is subject to influence and interference by the executive branch and is marred by inefficiency and corruption. Politically related crimes rarely were prosecuted. Citizens often appear without defense counsel and thereby effectively are denied the right to a fair trial. The Supreme Council of Magistracy disciplined 26 judges and prosecutors for misconduct during the year but did not impose harsh penalties. Land disputes remained frequent, and the Government and courts did not consistently resolve them in a just manner. A new land law went into effect in July. The Government largely controlled and influenced the content of the electronic broadcast media, especially television. The authorities on occasion attempted to interfere with freedom of assembly. Election related violence and intimidation occurred less frequently than in previous national elections, and the Government took action against some perpetrators, but not consistently. Societal discrimination against women remained a problem. Domestic violence against women and abuse of children were common. Discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem. The ethnic Vietnamese minority continued to face widespread discrimination. Unlike in previous years, the political opposition did not exploit actively anti-Vietnamese sentiment. The number of trade unions grew, and they became more active than in previous years. The Government continued to express support for freedom of association but did not enforce freedom of association and other provisions of the Labor Law effectively. Antiunion activity continued. Child labor continued to be a problem in the informal sector of the economy, including in the commercial sex industry, where forced labor was also a serious problem. Domestic and cross-border trafficking in women and children, including for the purpose of prostitution, was a serious problem. Mob violence, although none was ethnically directed, resulted in some vigilante-style killings. Landmines killed 163 persons and injured 634.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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