Wednesday, August 17, 2005

UN human rights official calls for release of Cambodia's opposition MP

A United Nations human rights official on Tuesday called for Cambodia's immediate and unconditional release of opposition parliamentarian Cheam Channy, calling the trial lack of fair.

In a statement released here on Tuesday by the United Nations' Cambodia Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Peter Leuprecht, the special representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, "denounced the outcome of two trials in Cambodia earlier this month."

On Aug. 8, the Military Court sentenced opposition party parliamentarian Cheam Channy to seven years in prison for fraud and for forming an illegal army. Earlier on Aug. 1 the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced two persons to 20 years in prison for the murder of trade union leader Chen Vichea on Jan. 22, 2004.

These latest convictions are "in breach of Cambodia's Constitution and the international human rights treaties to which Cambodia is party. The conduct of the investigations and prosecutions... raise fundamental questions about Cambodia's progress towards the rule of law," he said.

The special representative called for "a thorough, impartial and credible investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea" and " for Cheam Channy's immediate and unconditional release and the restoration of his immunity."

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday defended the independence of Cambodia's courts and criticized foreign organizations for encouraging jailed opposition lawmaker to create a "shadow army."

"The phrase I hate most is 'international pressure,'" Hun Sen said. "International pressure only keeps detainees behind bars longer," he said.

"Cambodia needs security. Don't destroy one country under the pretext of democracy," the prime minister said.

Hun Sen pointed out that Cheam Channy's "shadow army" posed a grave threat to national security. Any nation would have acted as Cambodia did under similar circumstances, he said.

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