The Cambodian Human Rights Committee and Cambodia’s Permanent Mission to the UN headquarters in Geneva have blasted comments made by three Special Rapporteurs about the ongoing trial of former CNRP leader Kem Sokha.
In a statement released on Friday, the UN rapporteurs expressed concerns over the trial, saying the entire process from the allegation itself to the conduct of the trial is beset by irregularities.
Chin Malin, vice president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, yesterday said the concerns raised did not reflect the truth.
“Based on legal procedures, the trial is being conducted in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he said. “The court is an independent institution and their opinions will not influence its decision.”
“They [the rapporteurs] cannot act as judges in the case,” he added.
In a press statement issued on Friday, the Permanent Mission said it deeply regrets the unprofessional conduct of the “so-called experts” who expressed their opinions in their personal capacity and are trying to interfere in the judicial affairs of a sovereign state.
“The Permanent Mission wishes to remind them that in Cambodia, similar to other democratic societies, law-breakers can be charged and prosecuted on the basis of offences they have committed, and not on the basis of their political status,” it said. “Being a political figure, whether or not bearing an opposition tag, does not entitle the person to act with impunity.”
It noted that Sokha’s charge is explicitly prescribed in article 443 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, and all legal actions taken against him are in full conformity with relevant laws of the country, including its Constitution.
The Permanent Mission noted that the “so-called experts” were not present in court and relied on unverified and unreliable sources of information, noting the rapporteurs were not among those allowed to attend the trial.
“In any democratic country, access to the courtroom is always at the discretion of the court, taking into consideration the actual court space, order and the conduct of the trial,” it said. “Most of the diplomatic corps are represented and there were no empty seats in the courtroom.”
“The Permanent Mission also urges the Special Rapporteurs to strictly adhere to the ‘Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council’ in the fulfilment of their functions, including not making public statements that can be construed as an interference in the judiciary system of Cambodia.”
However, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath, yesterday agreed with the UN rapporteurs and claimed that Sokha’s trial is “tainted”. He said he believed that Sokha’s case is politically motivated and the charges against him are trumped up.
In the statement released on Friday, Rhona Smith, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, had expressed their concerns about Sokha’s treason trial.
They also expressed their serious concern over public statements by some senior officials in relation to the case, which may jeopardise Sokha’s right to a fair hearing and will influence the outcome of his trial.
In the statement, they also called on the authorities to ensure justice for Sokha, by immediately removing all restrictive bail conditions, reinstate his political rights, and ensure his enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.