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.