Despite the Foreign Ministry declaring that United Nations staffer Soen Sally has diplomatic immunity, police will still arrest the human rights worker on sight because the Interior Ministry has not been told otherwise, an official said yesterday.
On Monday, the Post reported the Foreign Affairs Ministry had requested that the “competent authorities” stop legal action against Sally after determining he was protected under international law.
The request was forwarded to court officials two weeks ago, Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry told local media yesterday.
But speaking via phone yesterday, Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said the court was yet to strike out Sally’s warrant, meaning his officers remained duty-bound to arrest the UN official, “immunity or no immunity”.
“For us to cease pursuing his arrest there needs to be a request from the court to cancel the arrest warrant . . . When the court cancels it, it will be finished,” Sopheak said.
Sopheak likened Sally’s case to that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for years – saying Sally could “live his whole life in [a UN compound], it is possible, but when he comes out police will arrest him”.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Taing Sunlay yesterday said the court had not received the missive, and declined to comment further.
Sally, an official from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is charged alongside six other individuals for allegedly conspiring to bribe the purported mistress of CNRP leader Kem Sokha in a case widely considered politically motivated.
Reached yesterday, Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin also said the Foreign Ministry had yet to follow up on its request – which was communicated to the UN last Thursday – with the necessary paperwork.
“I cannot comment on the immunity because so far we have not got any formal information or notice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yet,” Malin said. “So far we have got the information from the news.”
Sounry, of the Foreign Ministry, yesterday hung up on a reporter, and subsequent attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Since Sally was summonsed over the case last month, his whereabouts have been closely guarded by the UN, which on Sunday said they believed the Foreign Affair’s statement would resolve the matter.
Via email, OHCHR country director Wan-Hea Lee said the situation remained unchanged.
“Our staff have immunity under the Convention. Exchanges with the Royal Govt (sic) have taken place on the matter.”