New York-based Human Rights Watch and the US Embassy have both expressed disappointment at the delay Friday of the much-anticipated Appeals Court hearing for two men convicted of the 2004 killing of union leader Chea Vichea.
The hearing of Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang—who many believe to be innocent—was postponed because Judge Samreth Sophal had called in sick with diarrhea, officials said.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, questioned in a Saturday statement why the court did not assign a substitute judge. “We hope that the hearing will be rescheduled as soon as possible,” he wrote. “This miscarriage of justice needs to be rectified by their release from prison as soon as possible.”
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle also called for the Appeals Court to move quickly to try the two men. “We were disappointed with the delay and we hope that it goes forward as soon as possible,” he said Sunday.
Samreth Sophal said he has taken medicine for his illness and is now feeling better. He said some rights workers have claimed he feigned diarrhea to avoid hearing the highly controversial case, but that such allegations were groundless.
“I was assigned to hear the case, I cannot reject the case,” he said. “There was no benefits in claiming I was sick. My sickness didn’t inform me in advance.” Samreth Sophal declined to say when the case would now be heard.
Appeals Court Thou Mony said a substitute judge could not be brought in as Samreth Sophal did not inform the court of his sickness in time.
Chea Vichea’s brother Chea Mony said he did not believe Samreth Sophal was really sick. “It was just a politically motivated pretext,” he said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the government had nothing to do with the delay, noting that judges are not robots, and therefore will on occasion fall ill. “Judges are not made of metal,” he said.