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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Groups seek freedom for labour killers

Groups seek freedom for labour killers

Advocates say Chea Vichea's murderers were framed, seek Supreme Court dismissal

THE International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Amnesty International have demanded the release of two men convicted of murdering outspoken union leader Chea Vichea, ahead of their final appeal before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The groups urged the court to impartially consider the evidence against  Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who are widely believed by human rights advocates to have been framed for the crime.

Chea Vichea was assassinated in broad daylight in Phnom Penh in January 2004.

Six days later, police arrested Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang. Despite a lack of evidence, the men were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Amnesty has demanded that the Supreme Court dismiss the case, saying in a statement: "In view of the human rights violations perpetrated during their detention and trial ... [a dismissal] is the only fair and just outcome for this case".

An ILO report from the Switzerland-based Freedom of Association Committee also blasted the Kingdom's judiciary as "unable to exercise its functions in an impartial and independent manner" and said that the "emerging climate of impunity cannot effectively be remedied without first addressing this underlying problem".

International NGOs, as well as Chea Vichea's family, saw the hearing as an opportunity for Cambodia to prove to the world that it has taken steps towards establishing a truly independent judiciary.

Sara Colm at Human Rights Watch said that a dismissal "would put Cambodia's judiciary on the road to international recognition that it could be unbiased and fair".

Chea Vichea's brother, Chea Mony, also said he hoped the two men would be freed. "Otherwise, it would bring shame from the international community."

The Supreme Court's mandate was to review the court proceedings at the municipal and appeal court levels, and Colm said that even a cursory glance at the case will reveal "a prime example of a miscarriage of justice in Cambodia".

For example, the prosecutor relied on a confession from Born Samnang that rights group Licadho says was extracted under torture.

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