Some Question Making Charges in Military Court

The International Federation for Human Rights and local rights groups Licadho and Adhoc have questioned the legality of charging op­position lawmaker Cheam Chan­ny in military court.

Naly Pilorge, director of Li­cad­ho, said Monday that regardless of the accusations, Cheam Chan­­ny is a civilian and the military court does not have the legal jurisdiction to charge him. “As a member of par­liament, he is considered a civilian,” Pilorge said. “As a civilian, you cannot be tried un­der the military court.”

“Not only does domestic law pre­­vent the prosecution of civilians be­fore military court, under inter­na­­tional law the trying of civilians by such courts should be very ex­cep­tional,” the International Feder­a­tion for Human Rights, which rep­re­sents 141 rights groups in 140 coun­tries, said in a statement.

Opposition lawmakers Sam Rainsy, Cheam Channy and Chea Poch were stripped of their immunity in a controversial National As­sembly vote on Feb 3.

Cheam Channy was arrested and charged by the military court of forming an illegal armed force. The opposition party maintains that Cheam Channy was in charge of a legitimate group established to monitor RCAF activities.

Minister of Justice Ang Vong Va­thana on Monday defended the pro­­­secution of a civilian by the military. “Because the case relates to military recruitment, it falls under the jurisdiction of the military court,” Ang Vong Vathana said.

Military Court Investigating Judge Pok Pon also defended the prosecution. “He affected the military,” Pok Pon said. “He appointed some ranks to the soldiers. He as­signed it in a military form so it is af­fecting the military.”

The European Union also is­sued a statement Feb 10 over the suspension of the lawmakers’ im­munity and ap­pealed to the leaders of the country’s political parties to re­solve their differences. “The Eur­opean Union makes an appeal to the leaders of all political parties to work together in a spirit of responsibility and concord in the interest of all Cambodian people,” it said.

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