UN Concerned About Detainees’ Presence at Trials

The U.N.’s human rights office in Cambodia expressed concern Monday that 22 detained protesters may not be allowed to attend their trials on Friday, while the government insisted that the prisoners will be transported to the court.

Two minors were arrested for intentional violence for their role in a November 12 clash near Stung Meanchey bridge between police and protesting SL Garment Factory workers. One has been released on bail. Another 21 detainees rounded up and imprisoned on charges of intentional violence and destruction of property during garment strikes on January 2 and 3 are also set to be tried.

Vanny Vanan, 17, who was arrested in the Stung Meanchey bridge clash, is being held at Prey Sar Prison’s Correctional Center 1. The others are being held in Kompong Cham province’s high-security Correctional Center 3 (CC3).

Wan-Hea Lee, representative of the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, said that fair trial rights will only be fully met if the accused persons are present at the hearing.

“Paperwork, broken vehicles or a lack of petrol money do not absolve the authorities from this responsibility. Failure to ensure the presence of these men at the hearings would undermine the integrity of the proceedings against them and enable the defendants to challenge the validity of the judgments.”

Prison authorities have previously blamed a failure to transport detainees or prisoners to court on petrol costs and old vehicles.

Reached by telephone, CC3 director Kea Sovanna said he received a summons from the court last week, ordering him to bring the 21 detainees to their trials.

“You will see them for the hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” he said.

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