The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday insisted on a "fair trial" in the Supreme Court case of two men convicted of the murder of labor leader Chea Vichea, which will be reviewed later this month.
The defendants, Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, both serving 20-year prison sentences for the alleged killing of Chea Vichea in 2004, are widely believed innocent.
Chea Vichea was gunned down in broad daylight at a busy market, and Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun were quickly arrested, charged and convicted, despite the lack of key evidence and unreliable testimony of witnesses. Former Phnom Penh police chief, Heng Pov, who initially ordered their arrest, and former king Norodom Sihanouk have both maintained the men are innocent, echoing the sentiments of family members and investigating rights groups.
"There are reasons to doubt the validity of the convictions of Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun for the killing," the UN rights office said in a statement Wednesday. "The Supreme Court, like all Cambodian Courts,is therefore bound to ensure that the fair trial provisions in the treaties are followed and breaches committed by lower courts are remedied.
"Supreme Court officials could not be reached for comment, but Om Yentieng, head of the government's National Human Rights Committee,called the UN statement interference in the role of the courts, which are scheduled to hear the case Dec. 31.
"I think a statement like this is a kind of pressure regarding the court," he said. "If the court decides contrarily to what they want,they will accuse it of injustice.
"The UN rights office remarks follow a similar statement from Amnesty International on Tuesday calling for the release of the two men and claiming "the true perpetrators remain at large."