UN experts: Cambodian opposition leaders' jail terms 'appalling'

Cambodia's most prominent opposition politician Sam Rainsy clenches his fist as he is attempting to return to Cambodia at Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris. Phnom Penh Municipal Court has convicted and sentenced the exiled leader and senior members of the country's banned opposition party to more than 20 years in prison, effectively barring them from ever returning home. The decision taken by the court late Monday, March 1, 2021 was condemned by the head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party , or CNRP, human rights organisations and the United States embassy. The trial was held in absentia as all the party leaders are living abroad. - AP

PHNOM PENH, March 8 (dpa): Heavy jail terms handed to Cambodian opposition leaders are "clear breaches” of international law, United Nations human rights experts has said recently.

In a statement, four UN special rapporteurs slammed the sentencing of nine members of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party who are in exile abroad.

Convicted in absentia, the group, including CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, received prison terms of between 20 and 25 years on Monday. They were also stripped of their rights to vote and stand in elections.

The charges stemm from an aborted attempt by Rainsy and his colleagues in 2019 to return to Cambodia and lead a popular revolt against long time Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The trial, conducted behind closed doors, was "tainted with irregularities," the UN experts said.

"We are appalled by the defendants’ lengthy and disproportionate prison terms which lack clear legal grounds,” they said.

The CNRP was forcibly dissolved by Cambodia’s partisan judiciary in 2018 after presenting a viable electoral threat to Hun Sen’s Cambodian People's Party, which has ruled the country for more than three decades.

The UN special rapporteurs, and their areas of expertise, included Rhona Smith - human rights in Cambodia; Irene Khan - the promotion and protection of free expression; Diego García-Sayan - the independence of judges and lawyers; and Clement Nyaletsossi Voule - the right to peaceful assembly and association.

They pointed out that, since 2019, more than 150 people linked to the CNRP have been arrested, detained, and tried. - dpa
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