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Resolution adopted unanimously by the Governing Council
at its 177th session (Geneva, 19th October 2005)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the case of Mr. Cheam Channy, a member of the National Assembly of Cambodia, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in accordance with the "Procedure for the examination and treatment, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of communications concerning violations of human rights of parliamentarians",

Taking note of the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/177/11(a)-R.1), which contains a detailed outline of the case,

Taking account of the hearing the Committee held with members of the Cambodian delegation to the 113th Assembly,

Considering the following:

  • On 23 July 2004, the Intelligence Department of the Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia requested the President of the National Assembly to take action to prevent Mr. Cheam Channy, a member of parliament belonging to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) from interfering in their activities. They accused him of attempting to raise an unlawful armed force. On 3 February 2005, the National Assembly voted to lift Mr. Cheam Channy's immunity and that of two other parliamentarians to permit their prosecution on charges relating to state security.

  • According to the SRP, the lifting of his parliamentary immunity, treated as a matter of urgency, violated several rules: the item in question had been added to the National Assembly's agenda in breach of Principle 53 of the Standing Orders; the vote took place by a show of hands, and was therefore in breach of Principle 40; moreover, before the vote, the members of the diplomatic corps and the media were asked to leave the room, after which the items on the lifting of the parliamentary immunity were added to the agenda, and the vote was taken; the meeting was then suspended. According to the parliamentary authorities, the procedure respected existing rules: the Assembly's Permanent Committee had duly deliberated on this issue, which had been on its agenda for a long time; in accordance with Principle 52 of the Standing Orders, the agenda item was added at the request of the Assembly's President, who, in keeping with Article 88, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, requested that the matter be decided in a closed session; and, having heard the Minister of Justice, a majority of the National Assembly easily exceeding the required two-thirds majority then voted in favour of the lifting of the immunity. The Cambodian delegation to the 112th IPU Assembly (April 2005) specified that the Permanent Committee had not heard Mr. Cheam Channy.

  • With regard to the accusation, the sources affirm that Mr. Cheam Channy is a member of the shadow cabinet set up by the opposition following the example of other democracies. To be exact, he was the shadow defence minister and, as such, monitored the activities of the army. In the discussions the Secretary General had during his mission to Cambodia (September 2004) with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, President of the National Assembly, both concurred that a member of parliament could not be prosecuted for acts undertaken as a member of parliament. The Prime Minister stated that Mr. Cheam Channy had given specific tasks to active members of the armed forces and this had irritated the military commander in the region concerned. While he did not believe this to be an appropriate form of political work, he also stated that he was not in favour of lifting his immunity for that reason. He stated moreover that he had removed from his post the military commander who had lodged the complaint against Mr. Cheam Channy,

  • Mr. Cheam Channy was arrested in the evening of 3 February 2005 after being summarily served an arrest warrant issued by the Office of the Military Prosecutor and charged with violating the 1997 Law on Political Parties, which outlaws "organizing armed forces". The Phnom Penh Appeal Court rejected his bail petition on 21 March 2005. According to the SRP, his arrest and detention are in breach of the law. First, military courts are competent to deal only with offences committed by military personnel, which is clearly not the case of Mr. Cheam Channy. Second, the arrest warrant was unlawfully issued by the military prosecutor's office instead of the investigating judge. It was, moreover, issued without the usual procedure, which first requires a request for the accused to appear at the prosecutor's office for questioning. However, according to the authorities, military courts are competent to judge civilians if army matters are involved.

  • On 8 August 2005 a military court heard the case. According to international observer reports, repeated requests by the defence counsel to present defence witnesses were denied; the defence counsel was allowed to cross-examine only one of the prosecution witnesses, several of whom, including the key witness, provided contradictory information before and during the trial. In this regard, the source affirms that all those witnesses received an amnesty and a sum of money for their testimony. No physical evidence, other than the SRP documents merely outlining the hierarchy of the shadow government, were presented by the prosecution. On 9 August 2005, the military court sentenced Mr. Cheam Channy to a seven-year prison term for fraud and for organizing an unlawful armed force. The proceedings were widely criticized, including by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, as they were considered to have fallen far short of applicable fair trial standards; it is unclear whether Mr. Cheam Channy has lodged an appeal,

  • Mr. Cheam Channy is detained in Phnom Penh Military Prison, reportedly in a small isolation cell with only a small hole in the roof. Requests by his parliamentary colleagues to visit him have reportedly been refused. He is reportedly not allowed any reading matter or writing materials, and may see his wife only once a week, for one hour. She has repeatedly stated that Mr. Cheam Channy's health is rapidly deteriorating and warrants medical treatment. According to information provided by the Cambodian delegation during the 113th Assembly, Mr. Cheam Channy has books and newspapers at his disposal; a subcommittee of the Law and Justice Committee is looking into his conditions of detention and a member of that Committee and legal staff have visited him; the delegation undertook to send the relevant report,
Bearing finally in mind that the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, in his reports to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has consistently expressed concern at the lack of independence and impartiality of the Cambodian judiciary, most recently in his report (E/CN.4/2005/116), and has made recommendations to remedy this situation,
  1. Thanks the delegation of Cambodia for the information provided;

  2. Expresses deep concern at the sentencing of Mr. Cheam Channy after a trial which the international community has unanimously described as falling far short of the fair trial guarantees which, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Cambodia is bound to respect;

  3. Further expresses concern at the procedure whereby the parliamentary immunity of Mr. Cheam Channy was lifted, in particular since he was offered no opportunity to present his defence; stresses that the right to defend oneself against accusations is a fundamental tenet of fair procedure, and deeply regrets therefore that the National Assembly, in particular its Permanent Committee, did nothing to enable Mr. Cheam Channy to exercise that right;

  4. Recalls in this respect that parliamentary immunity is designed to protect parliamentarians from possibly groundless proceedings or accusations that may be politically motivated, and thus to guarantee their independence and hence the independence of parliament itself vis-à-vis the other branches of government;

  5. Notes with concern the allegations regarding Mr. Cheam Channy's conditions of detention, and looks forward to receiving the report of the parliamentary committee monitoring his case;

  6. Notes that, according to the Cambodian delegation, Mr. Cheam Channy still holds his parliamentary mandate, with the result that his constituents are at present without representation; calls therefore on the authorities to heed the calls of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Cambodia to release Mr. Cheam Channy and so enable him to resume his parliamentary mandate;

  7. Considers that an on-site mission would contribute to a settlement of this case and requests the Secretary General to take the necessary steps for such a visit by the Committee;

  8. Requests the Secretary General to inform the authorities and the sources accordingly;

  9. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held during the 114th IPU Assembly (May 2006), in the light of the results of the mission which, it hopes, will have taken place.

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