Drop Charges in Chea Vichea Case, ILO Panel Says

A panel of the International Labor Organization last week urged Cambodian authorities to drop charges against two men convicted in the 2004 murder of Free Trade Union leader Chea Vichea, and to conclude investigations into the deaths of other trade unionists.

“Given the serious flaws observed in the judicial process to date [the ILO] expected that the criminal charges against those earlier convicted for these murders would be immediately dropped,” said a report issued by the ILO’s Committee on the Application of Standards.

Mr Vichea was shot dead in broad daylight at a newsstand in Phnom Penh on Janunary 2004. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were found guilty of Mr Vichea’s murder the following year.

The Court of Appeal upheld the verdict in April 2007, but in De­cember 2008 the Supreme Court released the two men on bail, citing a lack of evidence, and returned the case to the appeal court for further investigation. Since then, however, no developments in the case have been reported.

The periodic report by the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards, which assessed Cam­bodia’s compliance with a 1948 treaty on labor rights, which the country ratified in 1999. The ILO Committee also called for further investigation into the slaying of Free Trade Union leaders Ros Sovan­nareth, who was gunned down several months after Chea Vichea in 2004, and Hy Vuthy, who was shot dead in 2007.

In the report, the committee called on the government “to bring, not only the perpetrators, but also the instigators of these heinous crimes to justice.”

Lawyers for Mr Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the men convicted of Mr Vichea’s murder, welcomed the call. “This is a good step towards jus­tice for both the victim and my clients,” said Hong Kimsuon, a law­yer for the Cambodian Defenders’ Project who represented both men.

Lieutenant General Khieu So­pheak, Interior Ministry spokes­man, said the government was still investigating Mr Vichea’s murder.

“The government will find justice for him,” he said. “We have not closed Mr Vichea’s case yet.”

Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of the Court of Appeal, said yesterday he had instructed Phnom Penh Municipal Court to order military police to conduct further investigations.

National Military police commander General Sao Sokha said yesterday he was not aware of any investigation.

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