Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong yesterday defended the independence of Cambodia’s judiciary following concerns raised by a UN official about the whirlwind imprisonment of 11 activists arrested for protesting last week.
Kuong accused Surya Subedi, the UN's special rapporteur for human rights, of making a habit of wrongly characterising normal court decisions as rights violations, following a statement Subedi released Tuesday.
“Professor Subedi has always urged Cambodia to follow the rule of law and for the judiciary to be independent,” Kuong told reporters. “But every time the court does its work, [Subedi] condemns it as a human rights or freedom of speech violation.”
The court had its “own procedures”, Kuong added, and made decisions that ensured “those who commit the crimes receive the penalties”.
Subedi’s office released a statement Tuesday accusing the government of judicial harassment for political purposes.
The government, he said, needed to “respect the law and the principle of judicial independence”, while the judiciary should carry out its work independent of outside influence.
“It saddens me to see the courts being used again and again as a tool of the executive,” Subedi said.
His words were in response to 10 land activists and one monk being sentenced to a year in prison little more than 24 hours after their arrests at two protests in Phnom Penh last week.
“The timing in which these individuals were arrested, charged and convicted seem to be all well calculated,” he said. He also raised concerns about charges brought against 17 opposition members over violence in Freedom Park in July.
The treatment of the 11 and the arrest of two other monks in Phnom Penh last Wednesday has drawn heavy criticism.
Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday that Phnom Penh Municipal Court had granted her and five other opposition lawmakers permission to visit the activists in Prey Sar prison.
“We will tell them that we support them and stand for them as elected representatives,” she said.