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UN expert calls threats to lawyers 'concerning'

THE UN special rapporteur on  the independence of judges and lawyers has expressed concern about recent attempts to restrict the freedom of Cambodian lawyers to represent their clients.

According to a statement released Wednesday in Geneva, Leandro Despouy said the investigation of Sam Rainsy Party lawyer Kong Sam Onn was evidence of a worrying new trend that could have a "chilling effect" on the profession.

"To be able to represent their clients effectively, lawyers should not be subject to threats or intimidation, nor should they be targeted for prosecution or disciplinary action merely for having acted in the interests of their clients," Despouy said.

"Lawyers play an important role as defenders of human rights and must be free to represent their clients as they see fit."

Kong Sam Onn, who represents Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua in her lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, is under investigation by the Bar Association of Cambodia following complaints from Hun Sen's lawyer that he breached professional codes of ethics by speaking publicly about the case.

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