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Rights Group Blasts Court System

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission on Monday heavily criticized the Cambodian judicial system as unfair and politically biased, one day ahead of an expected verdict in the defamation case against opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua.

Mu Sochua was countersued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in April, after she alleged the premier had made derogatory remarks about her in the 2008 election campaign.

The Rights Commission said Mu Sochua had not received a fair trial in July and the proceedings were aimed at ending her political career.

“Considering the flaw in the justice system and scheme to end the political activities of the opposition member of parliament, the Asian Human Rights Commission holds that Mu Sochua is denied her rights to a fair trail by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal duly established by law, as stipulated under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a party,” the group said in a statement.

Any verdict against Mu Sochua would not carry the authority of a court of law, the group said.

The Rights Commission pointed to Mu Sochua’s inability to find a defense lawyer as part of the problem. Her initial lawyer quit after he was threatened with a defamation suit, and Mu Sochua was unable to find another, she said. She made a brief statement to the court instead.

The group also said almost all the prosecutors and judges in the court were affiliated with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Mu Sochua had her parliamentary immunity suspended by the CPP-dominated National Assembly in June, paving the way for charges against her.

“There was no respect for the principle of natural justice” in her case, the Rights Commission said. “There was no impartial mechanism to examine the charge and to hear the case.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday the group’s statement was “without reason.”

“The Asian Human Rights Commission never supports the government, but it always supports the opposition,” he said. “The court has not issued its verdict yet. If the Asian Human Rights Commission is really a legal professional, the Asian Human Rights Commission must wait for the decision of the court [to say] whether the decision is fair and in conformity with the law.”

The group was “pressuring the court,” he said. “The government has done nothing with the court at all, but it took legal action to defend honor, while Mu Sochua brought a group of international organizations to write a warning against the Cambodian prime minister.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court is expected to deliver a verdict in the case on Tuesday.