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Cambodia's UN mission declares rapporteurs' findings one-sided

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An Sokkhoeurn, Cambodian ambassador and permanent representative to the UN Office in Geneva. SUPPLIED

Cambodia's UN mission declares rapporteurs' findings one-sided

Cambodia’s UN mission in Geneva has "squarely dismissed" the contents of a June 29 joint press release issued by three UN special rapporteurs regarding a recent trial in the Kingdom, calling their findings "politically motivated".

In their press release, the trio of rapporteurs, which the mission did not name, called for an urgent review of the legal proceedings brought against a group of “opposition politicians” in Cambodia following a joint trial that ended in convictions for the 43 co-defendants charged with conspiracy to plotting against the government and incitement to cause social chaos.

The 43 co-defendants were sentenced individually to prison terms ranging up to eight years in length according to their level of guilt and involvement with the alleged plot.

“To state that the hearings were 'political' is both unfounded and prejudicial. There is no shortage of instances that those associated with the ruling party have been held accountable before the law by the same courts,” stated the Kingdom’s UN mission in a press statement, in reference to the court's treatment of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

The mission argued that the prosecution of CPP members in the past reinforces the fact that affiliation with a political party is not a form of entitlement in Cambodia that allows a person to break the law with impunity and that labelling the enforcement of the laws as political repression is to denigrate the rule of law and the equal application of it to all citizens, as warranted under the Constitution.

“The facts show that the recent trial was connected to a plot in 2019 known as 'event 9/11' wherein Sam Rainsy and his accomplices openly called for sedition and had mobilised funds to raise illegal armed forces against the legitimate government in order to unlawfully arrest the incumbent prime minister,” it said, referring to former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party to planned to return to Cambodia on November 9, 2019, to execute the plans.

The mission said these flagrantly illegal activities were carried out under the pretext of Rainsy's attempted repatriation and they were equivalent to a failed coup attempt, which is punishable under articles 453, 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code – “crafted with technical help of the western [legal] experts”.

The mission claimed that the "so-called rights experts" were following a narrative that is one-sided and biased.

"They seem to lose sight of the fact that their former colleague, Professor Rhona Smith, had denounced Sam Rainsy at the Human Rights Council in 2019 for his aggressive language and his attempts at incitement to overthrow Cambodia's democratically elected government.

“[Rainsy's conduct objected to by Smith] is identical to the charges that Sam Rainsy and his accomplices were found guilty of by the court, which proves that Cambodia’s justice system is not one based on hearsay evidence but on concrete presentation of the facts with full due process,” it said.

The mission further added that the alleged denial of physical access to the courtroom or complete access to the case files was not substantiated, stating that the truth was that some of the accused had fled from the process of accountability undertaken by the court.

The defendants had a full opportunity to be heard along with access to legal counsel in order to disprove the charges against them and to present their arguments in court, as part of their rights to due process guaranteed under the nation's Constitution, it said.

“Claims of prolonged or extended pre-trial detention are truly indicative of either a limited understanding of the law or an unwillingness to understand Cambodia's judicial procedures by these supposed rights experts,” the mission's statement concluded.

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