Human Rights Watch (HRW) has labeled the trial of two teenagers arrested during the lethal suppression of a garment sector strike in November 12 as “deeply flawed” and said that the pair should be spared prison sentences.
In a statement Sunday, the rights organization claims that Vanny Vannan, 17, was mistakenly identified as a participant in the torching of police vehicles, and that Meas Nun, 14, has an intellectual disability and has not been afforded the legal protections appropriate for children under international law.
The teenagers face charges of intentional violence and property damage for allegedly taking part in workers’ protests in Steung Meanchey district last year.
Their verdict is due May 30 and the pair both face up to 11 years in jail.
The HRW statement claims that video evidence absolves Vanny Vannan, a deliveryman, from police claims he had been part of an attack on police vehicles. It also says that Meas Nun, a scrap collector, had only been caught salvaging metal from a burned-out car and had only thrown rocks during the November protest, which was led by workers from the SL Garment factory.
It says that any sentence for Meas Nun should take into account his age and his unspecified disability, and result in a alternative to imprisonment. The statement criticizes authorities for failing to investigate the shooting death of food vendor and bystander Eng Sokhom, 49, who was shot by government security forces during the suppression.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Aing Maldey declined to comment on the statement when reached Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)