UN Maintains the Murder Was Political
A Kompong Speu provincial judge Friday sentenced one man to 15 years and his alleged accomplice to 14 years in prison for killing a Sam Rainsy Party commune candidate in what many human rights groups have characterized as a political killing.
Judge You Yoeunny sentenced Saing Rin, 35, to 15 years for killing, “with planning,” Uch Horn, an opposition party commune candidate in Baset commune on June 30. Ter Vann Chhum, 26, who supplied Saing Rin with the weapon, received a 14 year sentence.
“He was a sorcerer, and he killed two of my family members with his sorcery,” Saing Rin said during the trial. “I shot several bullets into him from five or six meters away, and the bullets hit his body. I shot alone.”
Although provincial authorities and the two killers have said Uch Horn was shot to death because he practiced black magic, the Human Rights Action Committee —a coalition of 18 local NGOs—said Uch Horn was killed because of his political ambitions.
An official from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also said “it’s not 100 percent, but the UN has, for the most part, deemed this as a political killing.”
About a week before he was killed, Uch Horn reported to the UN human rights office and to local NGOs that he feared for his life.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy described the verdict as a “mockery of justice,” and said that even though the two men were found guilty, he questioned whether they were the perpetrators of the crime.
“This is a trick by the ruling CPP to hide the intimidation and executions they do to the Sam Rainsy Party commune candidates,” he said.
“They blame the candidate of practicing black magic, then they kill them—this is hiding the truth and hiding the true motivation of the killing,” he said.
Kek Galabru, founder of human rights group Licadho, also said she is not fully convinced that justice has been served, and added that since the two men said they killed Uch Horn because of sorcery, she is “not satisfied with the verdict.”
Saing Rin, who has been detained since July 5, testified that “many” villagers in Baset commune held a meeting 10 days prior to the shooting and discussed Uch Horn and his alleged sorcery.
On the day of the shooting, he said he went to Ter Vann Chhum’s house to pick up the weapon used in the killing. After Ter Vann Chhum handed over the AK-47 assault rifle, Saing Rin shot Uch Horn to death, he said.
He testified at the trial, however, that the shooting was not premeditated because he was drunk at the time.
According to prosecutor Ven Yoeun, Ter Vann Chhum confessed to authorities that he provided the weapon used in the killing. However, Ter Vann Chhum said at the trial that the authorities coerced him into confessing that he gave the rifle to Saing Rin, adding that the police threatened to beat him.
Ter Vann Chhum, who had been detained since July 4, confessed his innocence throughout the trial, saying that Saing Rin stole the gun from under his house.