Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Human rights groups step up campaign for release of Cambodian murder scapegoats

Human rights groups step up campaign for release of Cambodian murder scapegoats

Cambodian and international human rights groups on Wednesday stepped up their campaign for the release of two men they believe were wrongly convicted of killing a prominent union leader.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions all issued statements received Wednesday, two days before Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were to scheduled to take the stand at an appeal hearing.
The organizations said a recently released statement by a key eyewitness to the murder, Va Sothy, strengthens long-held skepticism that the two men were merely scapegoats used by the Cambodian authorities to conceal the real motive behind the assassination.
"This new testimony from the prime eyewitness to the murder is the final blow to a prosecution case that was critically flawed from the beginning," Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement dated Tuesday.
"Evidence of the innocence of these two men has steadily mounted since the day they were arrested," he said. "It's time for the Cambodian courts to put an end to this charade and release them."
Freeing the pair would also help "rehabilitate" the tarnished image of the country's judiciary, a coalition of 21 Cambodian advocacy groups said in a statement Wednesday.
Cambodian judicial system is widely regarded as corrupt and susceptible to political influence.
Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are serving 20-year jail terms over the 2004 killing of Chea Vichea, the former head of Cambodia's Free Trade Union of Workers. He was an outspoken critic of government corruption and human rights abuses.
However, Va Sothy _ the former owner of the newsstand where Chea Vichea was gunned down _ said in her first signed statement, obtained Sunday, that the two convicted men were "fakes" produced by the Cambodian police.
She made a notarized statement in August in Bangkok, Thailand, to which she fled to seek asylum, saying she fears for her life.
She said the real killer was a different man who had spent about 20 minutes loitering near her newsstand before pulling out his gun and shooting Chea Vichea three times at close range.
Va Sothy's testimony pointed "to the direct responsibility of the government in hiding the true course of events and preventing the murderer of Chea Vichea and those who instigated his killing being found and held to account," the Belgium-based ICFTU said in a letter to the International Labor Organization in Geneva.
London-based Amnesty International said the two convicted men must be released without delay and urged the government to launch "an urgent impartial and effective investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea" to find those responsible.
Khieu Kanharith, Cambodia's information minister and chief government spokesman, on Wednesday accused Va Sothy of providing two different, conflicting accounts in her testimony.
He said she had given information to help police produce sketches that led to the arrest and conviction of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.
But Va Sothy, in her statement, denied she had given any such physical description to the police.


Updated : 2021-04-23 01:08 GMT+08:00