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Resolution adopted by consensus by the IPU Governing Council at its 187th session1
(Geneva, 6 October 2010)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Ms. Mu Sochua, a member of the National Assembly of Cambodia, as outlined in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/187/12(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 186th session (April 2010),

Noting that at its session held during the 123rd Assembly (October 2010) the Committee held a hearing with the leader of the Cambodian delegation,

Recalling the following:

  • In a widely publicized speech made by Prime Minister Hun Sen on 4 April 2009 in Kampot province, where Ms. Mu Sochua was elected in 2008 and which she represents in the National Assembly, reference was made to a woman who could only have been Ms. Mu Sochua in a derogatory manner and with sexual innuendoes;

  • On 23 April 2009, Ms. Sochua announced at a press conference that she would file a defamation lawsuit under Article 63 of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) Criminal Law, stating that she respected the Prime Minister as the head of the Government but wanted him to be held responsible for his insults; on 27 April 2009, Ms. Mu Sochua filed the lawsuit against Mr. Hun Sen, who in turn filed a defamation lawsuit against her, stating that lifting Ms. Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity would be “as easy as ABC”; he also brought a defamation lawsuit against her lawyer, Mr. Kong Sam Onn, for stating during the press conference that he had defamed Ms. Mu Sochua;

  • On 10 June 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court dismissed Ms. Mu Sochua’s case against the Prime Minister without any investigation, stating that it was groundless; however, the court moved ahead with the Prime Minister’s lawsuit, requesting that Ms. Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity be lifted;

  • On 22 June 2009, the National Assembly, in a closed-door session, lifted her immunity by a show of hands without giving her any opportunity to defend herself and without debate;

  • On 4 August 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Ms. Mu Sochua guilty under Article 63 of the UNTAC law criminal provisions of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen by: (i) holding a press conference to announce that she would file a defamation lawsuit against the Prime Minister, (ii) informing the IPU and the Global Fund for Women of the matter, (iii) affirming that the Prime Minister’s words against her “affected all Khmer women and women all over the world”, all of which showed that she had acted in bad faith with the intention of defaming the Prime Minister worldwide and sullying his reputation and dignity; she was fined 8.5 million riel and ordered to pay another 8 million riel in damages to the Prime Minister (a total of approx. US$ 4,000); on 28 October 2010, the Court of Appeal upheld the judgment; as to her lawyer, disciplinary proceedings have been brought against him by the Cambodian Bar Association, as a result of which he withdrew as defence counsel for Ms. Mu Sochua and joined the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP); the Prime Minister withdrew his complaint against him and the disciplinary proceedings were dropped,
Considering that, after a first hearing on 7 April 2010 was adjourned owing to the absence of Mr. Hun Sen and Ms. Mu Sochua, the Supreme Court, on 2 June 2010, upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the Municipal Court’s decision,

Recalling that the Cambodian parliamentary authorities have rejected allegations of irregularity and insisted that the rule of law was followed by the National Assembly and the courts and argued that Ms. Mu Sochua should have paid the fine, as advised by colleagues, instead of lodging appeals,

Considering that Ms. Mu Sochua stated that she would not pay the fine and that, instead of sending her to jail as would have been normal procedure in such a case, the Permanent Committee, in a meeting of 29 July 2010, acting on a court order decided that the fine and compensation to be paid to the Prime Minister would be deducted from her parliamentary salary; noting that while the parliamentary authorities stated that Ms. Mu Sochua agreed to or, as stated in the President’s letter of September 2010, did not oppose that procedure, the source affirms that the National Assembly’s Permanent Committee had stated earlier that deducting the fine from Ms. Mu Sochua’s salary would contravene the Standing Orders and that she had never been consulted by the Permanent Committee regarding this matter; she could hardly therefore have agreed to the procedure,

Considering further that, according to the source, Ms. Mu Sochua is being followed by plain-clothes police wherever she goes and in one instance, in July 2010, there were more than 20 police around the venue where she spoke; that, moreover, the government-controlled media continue to heap insults on her, labelling her an ignorant lawmaker who defamed the Prime Minister,

Bearing in mind lastly that United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms have expressed concern about the independence of the judiciary in Cambodia and "noted with concern the … lack of judicial independence and effectiveness" as well as the judiciary's inability to “effectively restrain executive power"2; most recently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, who in his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council of 16 September 20103 identified freedom of expression as a major area of concern along with the numerous challenges faced by the judiciary, expressed concern about the narrowing of political space, and recommended that defamation and disinformation should be decriminalized altogether,

Bearing in mind that Article 31 of the Constitution of Cambodia stipulates that the rights and freedoms of citizens include the “human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the human rights covenants and conventions and women’s and children’s rights; that, moreover, Articles 41, 39, 31 and 45 of the Constitution respectively guarantee freedom of expression, the right of Khmer citizens to denounce public officials for breaches of the law committed during the course of their duties, and equality before the law, and prohibits discrimination against women, and that Article 46 explicitly prohibits obscenity against women,

  1. Thanks the President of the National Assembly and the leader of the Cambodian delegation to the 123rd IPU Assembly for the information and observations provided;

  2. Deeply regrets, however, that they have taken no account of the serious concerns it has raised in this case regarding respect for freedom of expression and lifting of parliamentary immunity;

  3. Remains particularly distressed and indignant that a letter from Ms. Mu Sochua to the IPU was used by the court to find her guilty of defamation, resulting in a situation where the IPU’s procedure to defend the human rights of members of parliament was used to violate the human rights of a member of parliament, which situation it regards as intolerable;

  4. Deplores the situation where, owing to fundamentally flawed proceedings, as the judge wholly failed to establish the existence of the elements of the crime of defamation, Ms. Mu Sochua has had to pay a fine and compensation to the Prime Minister when in fact the court never examined how Ms. Mu Sochua’s statements could have harmed his reputation; believes that it would befit the Prime Minister to waive payment of the compensation awarded to him;

  5. Is deeply concerned that Ms. Mu Sochua’s movements may be monitored by police as such monitoring can but affect her ability to exercise her parliamentary mandate free of fear; calls on the National Assembly to examine this matter and, more generally, to protect its members from encroachments by the executive authorities by using its oversight function, rather than cautioning or ratifying decisions and actions of the executive branch; reiterates in this respect its wish to know why, when lifting Ms. Mu Sochua's immunity, the Assembly closed the session to the public, why Ms. Mu Sochua was not given the right to defend herself, why the Assembly took a vote on the issue without debate, and why the vote was held by a show of hands;

  6. Calls on the Cambodian authorities to heed the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; invites the parliament of Cambodia to debate his report in parliament and to take the necessary measures to ensure implementation of his recommendations;

  7. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary authorities, to Ms. Mu Sochua, to the sources of information and to interested parties; requests him also to inform donor countries of its concerns in this case;

  8. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 124th IPU Assembly (April 2011).

  1. The delegation of Cambodia expressed its reservation regarding the resolution.
  2. A/HRC/WG.6/6/KHM/2
  3. A/HRC/15/46

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