Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) deputy leader Kem Sokha met with United Nations Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith yesterday in Phnom Penh, telling reporters afterwards he called on Smith to encourage judicial independence in the Kingdom.
“I informed Smith that in order to resolve human rights problems in Cambodia, we first have to reform the judicial system,” said Sokha, who is also vice president of the National Assembly.
The closed-door meeting took place at the National Assembly, with Smith declining to answer questions afterwards.
Sokha said he brought up the example of 11 CNRP members and supporters jailed in July for up to 20 years each on “insurrection” charges relating to a July 2014 protest in Phnom Penh that turned violent.
At the time, observers decried the lack of evidence and due process seen during the trial.
According to the head of the human rights section at rights NGO Adhoc, Ny Chakrya, the lack of judicial independence presents a challenge not only to the opposition and civil society, but to millions of Cambodians.
“The court always favours the rich and powerful; the poor continue to be victims,” he said.
Smith’s nine-day visit ends today. She is due to present a report to the UN Human Rights Council later this month.