Representatives of parliaments worldwide criticized the government’s handling of the Mu Sochua defamation conviction at a meeting in Geneva on Thursday where they called the case a “complete travesty of justice,” according to news reports.
The human rights committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international group that represents 155 member parliaments, criticized Cambodia and 33 other governments on their treatment of parliamentarians.
“She [Mu Sochua] is… on the verge of being sent to prison for merely exercising her right to freedom of expression,” Mexican Senator Rosario Green, chair of the IPU’s human rights panel, said at the Geneva meeting.
“But, not only that, if she goes to jail, her possibility to run for the next parliamentary election in her country will be seriously compromised,” Ms Green said, according to a report by Voice of America
The IPU’s condemnations of Ms Sochua’s conviction came amid the threat of her arrest and followed other international organizations in expressing concern for the lawmaker’s fate.
On Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized the criminal defamation case and said “criminal law is still used to stifle freedom of speech in many countries. And that very much appears to be the situation in the case of Mu Sochua in Cambodia.”
Following her defamation conviction for announcing her intention to sue Prime Minister Hun Sen for allegedly defaming her, Ms Sochua has been ordered to pay a court fine of about $2,125 to the National Treasury, and $2,000 in compensation to the premier.
Ms Sochua has been adamant that she will go to prison before paying the fine, which she maintains was handed down by a biased and politically compromised court system.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, dismissed the criticism from the IPU on Friday.
“We feel that people who are involved in those issues should come here, or hold a non-partisan study or report on that,” Mr Siphan said
“She has taken the opportunity to say she is against the judgment, that she is against the rule of law,” he added.
Ms Sochua said that the IPU statement put the spotlight on Cambodia’s dysfunctional judiciary.
“These are symptoms of a system that is so badly in need of repair,” she said.