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Cambodian rights group calls for unconditional release of opposition leaders, end to violence

Police officers block a street as protesters demand the release of five opposition members of parliament, near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, 16 July 2014
Police officers block a street as protesters demand the release of five opposition members of parliament, near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, 16 July 2014

REUTERS/Samrang Pring

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party ("CNRP") leaders currently detained in pre-trial detention and for an end to violence. Today, 16 July 2014, nine leaders of the CNRP were charged with Article 459 (Leading an insurrectional movement), Article 495 (Incitement to commit a felony), and Articles 28 and 218 (Instigation to commit acts of violence) of the Cambodian Criminal Code. The charges were brought against Mu Sochua, Ho Vann, Men Sothavrin, Keo Phirum, Real Khemrin, Oeu Narith, Khin Roeun, Nut Rumduol, and Long Ry. The first six have already been arrested and are currently in pre-trial detention. Additional charges have also been filed against two "unidentified" individuals. The speed with which charges were brought and the fact that all the people arrested are high-ranking CNRP leaders who were not directly responsible for acts of violence only reinforces CCHR's belief that the charges brought against the CNRP leaders are politically-motivated.

The charges, arrest and detention of leading members of the CNRP over the past two days, follows the violence that broke out during a CNRP demonstration on 15 July 2014, in the vicinity of Phnom Penh's Freedom Park. Since the Royal Government of Cambodia's ("RGC") ban on assembly, following garment workers strikes in January 2014, protests have repeatedly been marred by acts of violence. CCHR calls on all parties to restrain from any acts of violence and on the RGC to immediately fully restore the right to freedom of assembly including in Phnom Penh's Freedom Park, and from using private, untrained security guards to police demonstrations.

CCHR Senior Researcher Chor Chanthyda comments:

"The government must conduct prompt and independent investigations into the acts of violence that occurred during yesterday's protests. In addition, authorities should instead ensure that full and independent investigations are undertaken into all past instances of violence during demonstrations, including those where security forces have repeatedly used excessive force against protestors and who have yet to be investigated. Today's charges illustrate again that the judiciary is once again used as a political tool to restrict freedom of expression and opposition voices by the government of Cambodia."

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