Topic: Judiciary and Rule of LawStatement: Impunity at Work: Acid Attack Case Verdict Shames Cambodian Judiciary
Published on September 2, 2009; The Cambodian League for Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) jointly condemn the decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to acquit former National Military Police Deputy Chief of Staff General Chea Ratha and her accomplices accused of an acid attack on Ya Soknim. The August 31 verdict, issued by judges Sin Visal, Din Sivuthy and Sem Sakola came after several inexplicable delays in the case over the past months.
Human rights activists believe the attack on Ya Soknim, that left her severely mutilated, was an act of revenge against her and her niece, the TV celebrity In Solyda, who has been estranged from Chea Ratha since early 2008.
Published on August 24, 2009; On July 24, 2009, 30 protestors were arrested in connection with a land dispute in Kbal Spean Village, Poipet Commune, Poipet City, Banteay Meanchey Province. The day before, 50 armed military and police officers had escorted court prosecutor Tan Sei Hak, investigating judge Ang Meal Tei and court officials to enforce an eviction notice by blockading the area and surrounding the houses. In response, residents barricaded their houses and set fire to car tires in attempt to defend their homes. Police managed to break the dead lock by using water cannons and an excavator to level the houses.
Published on August 4, 2009; LICADHO condemns this morning's court verdict convicting opposition MP Mu Sochua of defamation and ordering her to pay a total of 16.5 million riel (US$4100) in fines and compensation.
"This verdict is a significant blow to freedom of expression and will have serious ramifications on the ability of National Assembly members to publicly speak their minds," said LICADHO director Naly Pilorge. "It is yet another example of the perilous state of democratic freedoms in Cambodia."
Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) MP for Kampot province, was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordered to pay 8.5 million riel in fines and 8 million riel in compensation to Hun Sen. Mu Sochua was tried on July 24 but the verdict was delayed until today.
The Prime Minister filed a defamation lawsuit against Mu Sochua in response to her attempting to sue him for defamation for comments he made during a public speech in April. The court threw out Mu Sochua's lawsuit against the Prime Minister but proceeded with his counter-suit against her.
Published on June 22, 2009; We, the undersigned members of Cambodian civil society, condemn the lifting of parliamentary immunity from SRP members Ms. Mu Sochua and Mr. Ho Vann by the National Assembly today, Monday 22 June 2009. The National Assembly’s action is a significant blow to democracy and freedom of expression in Cambodia.
In addition to the decision to lift Ms. Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity, which was made to allow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s criminal defamation lawsuit against her to proceed, the National Assembly also made a surprise decision to lift Mr. Ho Vann’s immunity this morning. In his case, the decision clears the way for a lawsuit, filed by a group of military officers, for criminal defamation, disinformation and incitement to be made against him.
The manner in which the lifting of the two SRP MPs’ immunity was conducted this morning leaves no doubt that the government understands that this process was unfair. The decision to include Mr. Ho Vann’s immunity in the vote was made in secret and only known at the last minute. National and international observers - including foreign diplomats - were refused access to the National Assembly to observe the vote. One open handed vote, rather than separate ones, was used to lift the immunity of both MPs.
Published on June 1, 2009; In recent years, senior Cambodian government officials including Prime Minister Hun Sen have stated the government's wish is to have a Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, commonly referred to as the “NGO Law”. In late September 2008, the Prime Minister announced that the NGO Law would be one of three priority laws to be completed.
But while these officials have claimed a need to address crime and corruption on the part of NGOs, a brief examination of the reasons they put forward suggests that the reverse is actually true - in reality, this proposed legislation is intended to restrict the lawful activities of Cambodian civil society organizations.
Published on March 22, 2009; LICADHO condemns the Kampong Thom Provincial Court's conviction of former Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) commune chief Tuot Saron on a charge of kidnapping and illegal confinement. This prosecution and conviction is baseless and politically-motivated, LICADHO believes.
On Friday, March 20, Tuot Saron was convicted and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Three other provincial SRP officials, who have all fled and are in hiding, were convicted in absentia of the same charge; two of them, Men Vannak and Hour Sarath, were also sentenced to three years' imprisonment, while the third, Thorn Rithy, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Published on March 2, 2009; On 24 January, 2009 hundreds of families were forcibly evicted from Dey Krahorm in the heart of Phnom Penh. In the month following the eviction, residents struggled with the poor living conditions at the Damnak Trayeoung relocation site while others mounted protests to demand proper compensation for their stolen land and destroyed houses. However, for three former Dey Krahrom residents the repercussions of their struggle to save their land now includes criminal convictions.
Published on February 18, 2009; LICADHO deplores today's decision by the Appeal Court to uphold the murder conviction of Thach Saveth, also known as Chan Sopheak. This verdict is yet another example of the injustices that Cambodia's judiciary continues to perpetuate on a regular basis.
Thach Saveth is serving a 15-year prison sentence for the 2004 murder of trade union official Ros Sovannareth, despite a lack of credible evidence against him. He was convicted on the basis of written statements, prepared by the police, from witnesses to the murder who allegedly identified him. These witnesses never testified in court or were interviewed by any court official. One of these witnesses was present at last week's Appeal Court hearing, at the request of the defense lawyers, but the court refused to allow him to testify.
Published on February 11, 2009; LICADHO urges the Court of Appeal to provide justice to Chan Sopheak, the man convicted of the murder of trade unionist Ros Sovannareth despite a lack of credible evidence against him, by releasing him from prison as soon as possible. The Appeal Court held a hearing on the case this morning and will issue its verdict on February 18.
There are remarkable similitaries between the case of Chan Sopheak, who is also known as Thach Saveth, and that of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the two men who were unjustly convicted of killing another trade unionist, Chea Vichea. The Supreme Court, acknowledging the lack of evidence against them and the need for further investigation, ordered the release on bail of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun on December 31, 2008.
Published on January 18, 2009; On December 31, 2008, the Supreme Court announced the release on bail of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun after 1799 days of wrongful imprisonment, and ordered the Appeal Court to re-investigate their case. The two men were held at PJ prison for almost five years after being wrongly convicted of the assassination of Chea Vichea, leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC). Their provisional release signifies an important step towards the resolution of a case dogged by miscarriages of justice.
Published on November 1, 2008; In the Cambodian context any NGO law - regardless of its particular content - poses a threat to the work of human rights defenders and other NGOs. While human rights defenders are most at risk because of their role in continually criticizing government actions, the objectives of all NGOs and development agents - both foreign and domestic - can be compromised. And government claims that NGO Laws are enacted to promote legitimate and effective civil societies are rarely borne out.
This briefing paper discusses experiences with NGO Laws in other countries and includes a power point presentation of the briefing paper.
Published on October 29, 2008; The filing of criminal charges against nine community representatives from around Cambodia in the past week highlight the widespread misuse of the law against communities who try to defend themselves in land disputes, LICADHO said today.
"Community representatives continue to be arrested, charged and imprisoned because of their efforts to assist fellow villagers to protect their land," said LICADHO president Kek Galabru. "Frequently, there is no justification whatsoever for the charges against them - the law is simply misused as a weapon to try to intimidate their communities into giving up land."
In the past week, nine community representatives from three provinces have been arrested and charged by the courts, and six of them sent to prison for pre-trial detention.
Published on October 15, 2008; For Cambodia's police and armed forces, impunity is the rule of law. In recent months Phnom Penh has been witness to a spate of shootings perpetrated by police or Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) personnel. These individuals at the time of the shooting incidents were either off-duty or working second jobs as security guards, during which they were illegally carrying firearms. Following the shootings all these perpetrators escaped prosecution because they were protected by their high-level connections, paid out-of-court compensation to the victim to ensure a criminal complaint was not made, or were allowed to go into hiding.
Published on September 25, 2008; September 23, 2008 marked the 1,700th day that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent in prison for a crime they did not commit.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the two men continue to serve 20-year prison sentences for the murder of trade union leader Chea Vichea. They remain in Phnom Penh's PJ prison, where they have been since their arrests on January 28, 2004.
Published on September 25, 2008; LICADHO calls for Cambodian authorities to take concrete steps to redress he persecution of human rights defenders, including by bringing the killers of trade unionist Hy Vuthy to justice and ensuring that Khmer Kampuchea Krom activist monk Tim Sakhorn is able to return to Cambodia from Vietnam.
“Cambodia is a dangerous place for human rights defenders and this will not change until some real action is taken to prevent and punish attacks against them,” said LICADHO president Kek Galabru. “The authorities cannot continue to commit or ignore serious abuses against people who try to defend or promote human rights.”
A LICADHO briefing paper issued today, entitled Attacks and Threats Against Human Rights Defenders in Cambodia 2007, records more than 50 incidents of intimidation or violence against rights defenders last year. They include the February murder of Hy Vuthy and the arbitrary deportation of monk Tim Sakhorn to Vietnam in June.