[JURIST] Cambodia is misusing [press release] its judicial system in order to suppress dissent and thereby undermine justice, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday amid two court rulings against three individuals. In the first case, the Court of Appeals of Cambodia upheld a lower court's 20-year sentence against two individuals, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, for the 2004 murder of Chea Vichea, the leader of Free Trade Union (FTU). HRW criticized the recent holding because it has been clear throughout the criminal proceedings that there were insufficient evidence for a conviction and that the individuals were used as scapegoats. The two individuals had been arrested and convicted for 20 years but the Supreme Court remanded the case for further investigation and released the individuals on bail in 2009. However, in the recent ruling, the Court of Appeals made no mentioning of new evidence being admitted. The second case involved a leader of a movement protesting mass evictions from Phnom Penh's Boeng Kak area. Yorm Bopha, her husband and her two brothers were convicted for assaulting a man who had stolen her car's side mirrors. The trial against the four individuals has been based on fabricated evidence. Rupert Abbott, Researcher on Cambodia for Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned the ruling stating that "[t]hese shocking verdicts show why Cambodians have good reason not to trust their courts." AI designated [press release] Bopha, who was sentenced to three years in prison, as prisoner of conscience and accused the country of not respecting the rule of law.
In October a Cambodian court sentenced a prominent Cambodian radio broadcaster [JURIST report] and rights activist to 20 years imprisonment for inciting rebellion against the state. He was arrested in July on accusations of being involved in a plot to incite villagers in eastern Kratie to rebel against the Cambodian government in an effort to establish an autonomous region in the province. A month earlier, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] released the former "First Lady" of the Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] regime, Ieng Thirith. The court ruled that she should be released due her degenerative illness, said to likely be Alzheimer's. Thirith, the sister-in-law of former leader Pol Pot [BBC backgrounder], has always denied any wrongdoing. The ECCC has only convicted one former Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav [JURIST news archive]. Earlier in September the ECCC announced that it would declassify more than 1,700 war crimes documents [JURIST report] in efforts toward more convictions. Ieng Thirith was indicted [JURIST report] in September 2010 along with Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. The ECCC ruled in November that Ieng Thirith was unfit to stand trial, but the Supreme Court Chamber ordered that she remain in detention [JURIST reports] and that the Trial Chamber exhaust all measures so that she can stand trial.