ITUC OnLine – April 12, 2007

Brussels, 12 April 2007 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has described a ruling by the Cambodian Appeals court confirming 20-year prison sentences for two men unjustly accused of killing trade union leader Chea Vichea in 2004 as a “double travesty of justice”. “Not only have two innocent men been condemned to lengthy prison terms, but the real perpetrators of this vicious crime have gone unpunished”, said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the ITUC points to the climate of impunity which reigns in Cambodia, reinforced by the lack of real action by the authorities following the murder of another trade unionist, Hy Vuthy, in February this year. The Appeals Court decision comes in spite of overwhelming evidence of the innocence of the two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, including testimony by a key eye-witness and by the senior police officer initially investigating the crime that the two did not commit the murder, and the fact that both had credible alibis for the time of the killing.

The ITUC letter also condemns the continuing climate of violence, intimidation and harassment against Cambodian trade unionists, in violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 which Cambodia has ratified, and states that the ruling by the Appeals Court throws the independence of the country’s judiciary into further disrepute.

“We are calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to ensure that genuine justice is done, by the holding of proper investigations into this and other murders, and by ensuring the immediate release and protection of  Mr Born and Mr Sok,” said Ryder. “Cambodia’s continued refusal to ensure that its international obligations to ensure full respect for trade union rights will only cause further harm to its international reputation, including its place in the global economy”, he added.