(CCHR/IFEX) - With Mam Sonando's Court of Appeal hearing scheduled to begin on 5 March 2013, CCHR released a legal analysis of his charging and sentencing in the court of first instance hearing in October 2012.
On 1 October 2012 71-year-old journalist and human rights defender Mam Sonando was found guilty of instigating an insurrection in Pro Ma village, Kratie province - the site of a land conflict and forced eviction. Mam Sonando was charged under six articles of the Penal Code 2009 as follows: Articles 456 and 457, which prohibit insurrection and stipulate the attached penalties, respectively; Article 464, which prohibits incitement to take up arms against the state authority; Article 504, which prohibits the obstruction of public officials with aggravating circumstances; Article 609, which prohibits unlawful interference in the discharge of public functions; and Article 28, which establishes criminal liability for the instigation of a felony or misdemeanor under Cambodian law (together, the "Charges"). Despite a stark lack of evidence to link him with the alleged secession in Pro Ma village, Mam Sonando was sentenced to 20 years in prison - a veritable death sentence for a man of his age.
On 3 March 2013, two days before Mam Sonando's Court of Appeal hearing, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") released a Legal Analysis of the Charges and Sentencing of Mam Sonando at the court of first instance - both a long- and short-form version - which are available on CCHR's website and the Cambodian Human Rights Portal.
This Legal Analysis:
(1) provides a factual background to the arrest, charging and sentencing of Mam Sonando as well as to the alleged secession attempt and the events that took place in Pro Ma village in May 2012;
(2) provides an overview of the fundamental human rights that have been compromised by the Charges, namely the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and liberty (as well as the non-binding right to defend human rights), and establishes that these rights have all been grossly violated with respect to Mam Sonando;
(3) conducts a step-by-step analysis of the Charges, examining each of them in turn and applying the law to the facts as they have been reported, arguing that, for the most part, the law has been incorrectly applied;
(4) examines the judicial process both at the pre-trial and trial stages of the hearing at the court of first instance, and finds that Mam Sonando's rights to a fair trial were breached in numerous fundamental ways; and (5) concludes that the sentencing of Mam Sonando represents a gross miscarriage of justice and that there are therefore clear, solid and substantial grounds for appeal.
CCHR President Ou Virak comments:
"From a careful analysis of the facts and an application of the law, it is clear that the charges against Mam Sonando were seriously flawed and that he has been arbitrarily imprisoned as a result of exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association. While we have been calling for Mam Sonando's immediate release, we hope that over the next few days the Court of Appeal is allowed to do its job properly and assess the facts, the law and the conclusions reached in the first trial completely objectively and impartially. If it can - and we hope that our Legal Analysis is helpful to the court - we have no doubt that Mam Sonando will be acquitted and released very soon."
Download CCHR's Legal Analysis:
Legal_Analysis_Mam_Sonando_Trial_First_Instance.pdf (242 KB)