The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) has rebuffed UN rights officials’ criticism of lengthy prison terms for former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party and their alleged accomplices.
The response came after a group of UN rights experts issued a press release on March 5 deploring the lengthy prison terms of between 20 and 25 years for ex-CNRP leaders on charges of “attack” and their accomplices on charge of “plotting” under Article 451 and Article 453 of the Criminal Code, respectively.
The UN officials include Rhona Smith, special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia; David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Diego Garcia-Sayan, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association.
“International human rights law guarantees freedom of association and expression, as they are a central pillar of democratic societies and guarantors of a free and fair electoral processes.
“The conviction of the nine opposition leaders without clear legal grounds and without presence of the accused raises serious concern about the compatibility of the decision with international human rights law, including the right to be tried by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal,” they said.
In a press statement, the CHRC dismissed the criticism of Cambodian court procedures and ruling as groundless, saying democratic space in Cambodia is always open for those who exercised their rights and freedom in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
“Law enforcement against perpetrators of a crime is not tantamount to restrictions on rights and freedom and democratic space in Cambodia. Therefore, [their] criticism of court procedures and ruling are groundless and only made to defend the perpetrators. It is unfair and a double standard,” the CHRC said.
The CHRC took note of Rainsy’s announcement of his plans to return to Cambodia on November 9, 2019, to arrest Prime Minister Hun Sen and his call for the public and members of the armed forces to join him.
It said the plan was orchestrated by a handful of overseas politicians led by Rainsy to incite the armed forces to disobey orders and the public to revolt against the government.
“The November 9  plan was a coup plot, a serious crime that affects national security . . . The plan to return is just a pretext and a political ploy to entice and trick innocent people into participating in the plot.”
The CHRC said that there is clear and compelling evidence, some of which were easily obtained because Rainsy and his accomplices had used Facebook and other social media as a means to post provocative messages to serve their “fraudulent” plan.
On March 5, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Geneva also issued a statement deploring the UN special rapporteurs’ criticism.
“Their personal comments are fraught with self-contradiction, selectivity and politicisation with disregard of the facts, and confuses right with wrong,” it said.