Cambodian authorities must immediately quash the convictions for insurrection handed down to eleven opposition party activists on 21 July, the ICJ said today.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the National Rescue Party (CNRP) activists to between seven and 20 years in prison following an unfair trial.
“These men were grossly over-charged with insurrection in the first place,” said Kingsley Abbott, ICJ International Legal Adviser.
“The fact they have now been handed down disproportionately severe sentences following an unfair trial only serves to underscore that a serious miscarriage of justice has taken place in violation of Cambodia’s international obligations,” he added.
The charges arose out of their participation in a demonstration on 15 July 2014 against the closure of Phnom Penh’s designated protest site, Freedom Park, that became violent after “public-order” para-police attempted to break up the protest and were attacked by some people in the crowd.
According to information provided to the ICJ, all but one of the accused’s nine lawyers either boycotted or were unable to attend Tuesday’s suddenly-scheduled hearing in protest against a decision by the Court on Monday to fast track the trial.
When the Court unexpectedly called for closing arguments, the accused requested their lawyers to be present, which was denied.
According to observers, no credible evidence was produced during the trial connecting the eleven to the violence and the verdicts were read out after only 15 minutes of deliberation.
“In the event that fresh charges are brought, they must be consummate with the seriousness of the alleged offending, based on reliable evidence, and be adjudicated upon at a trial that scrupulously respects international fair trial standards in accordance with Cambodia’s international obligations,” Abbott said.
Three men – Meach Sovannara, Oeur Narith, and Khin Chamreun – were convicted of participating in and leading an insurrectionary movement and were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Eight men – Sum Puthy, Neang Sokhun, San Kimheng, Tep Narin, San Seihak, An Batham, Ouk Pich Samnang, and Ke Khim – were convicted of participating in an insurrectionary movement and were sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
Tuesday’s verdicts are inconsistent with international law and standards including article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a State Party, which states that everyone has the right to a “fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”
Kingsley Abbott, International Legal Adviser, Asia & Pacific Programme, t: + 662 6198477, + 662 6198478 Ext. 203 ; e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org