Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On first anniversary, NGOs call for inquiry on Kem Ley assassination

More than 160 nongovernmental organisations from around the world have called on Cambodia to establish an independent commission to investigate the assassination of Kem Ley, a well-known political commentator who was killed in broad daylight in the capital a year ago.

An undated photo of prominent Cambodian critic Kem Ley. Photo - Radio Free AsiaAn undated photo of prominent Cambodian critic Kem Ley. Photo - Radio Free Asia

In a statement released on Sunday, Human Rights Watch said that Kem Ley’s murder was about silencing a prominent critic and that speaking out about sensitive topics carries a deadly risk. He had publicly criticised the unusual wealth of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family.

The statement said no one believes the alleged motive of convicted killer Oeuth Ang, not even his wife and family, “but in a justice system captured by the ruling Cambodia People’s Party, such stories do not require an iota of credibility for a conviction.”

Human Rights Watch said prosecutors have not even gone through the motions to investigate alleged accomplices mentioned by Oeuth Ang, such as the person he says introduced him to Kem Ley, or the man he claims sold him the gun used to commit the murder. “Oeuth Ang is at best a scapegoat for others who are still at large,” it said.

Given the failures of prosecutors and the courts, 164 NGOs from around the world have demanded that Cambodia establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry in line with the UN Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extralegal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

Shockingly, in an indication of the total lack of political commitment to investigate Kem Ley’s murder any further, it said, representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Office of the Cabinet, and the Commissariat of the National Police all refused to receive the letter. Only the Ministry of Justice consented to receive it.

The killing of Kem Ley requires a thorough, professional and unbiased investigation that follows the facts, wherever they lead, and holds accountable all those involved, no matter their position or their power, it said.

Such an investigation must include UN human rights representatives and other legal experts with no connection to the Royal Government of Cambodia. Sadly, it added, the prospects of this happening are close to nil as the people of Takeo mourn the passing of a favourite son on the first anniversary of his murder.

“As Cambodia heads into national elections in 2018, the government’s commitment to human rights and rule of law will be judged with close attention to how it handles demands for the next steps in the Kem Ley case,” the statement said.