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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 192nd session
(Quito, 27 March 2013)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition and a member of parliament at the time of the communication’s submission, and to the resolution it adopted at its 191st session (October 2012),

Taking into account the information provided by the Minister of Justice to the Secretary General on the occasion of the latter’s visit to Cambodia on 21 February 2013,  the letter from the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 11 February 2013, the letter from the Chairman of the First Commission of the National Assembly dated 18 February 2013, and the letter from the Deputy Chief of the Multilateral Relations Office, Assistant to the Cambodian delegation, National Assembly, dated 4 March 2013,

Recalling the following information on file:

  • Having had his parliamentary immunity lifted in a closed session by a show of hands and without being afforded the opportunity to defend himself, Mr. Sam Rainsy was prosecuted and, in judgments handed down in January and September 2010, sentenced to 12 years in prison and a heavy fine for: (a) having pulled out border post #185 marking the Cambodian/Vietnamese border in a village in Svay Rieng province and inciting racial hatred; and (b) divulging false information by having published a map reportedly showing a false border with Viet Nam; on 20 September 2011, the Appeal Court reduced the prison sentence on the second count from ten to seven years; on 25 April 2011, Mr. Sam Rainsy was found guilty in a third case on charges of defaming Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008 and of incitement to discrimination; he was sentenced at first instance to two years in prison and a fine, and ordered to pay compensation to the Minister; Mr. Sam Rainsy appealed the sentence in the third case; 

  • The verdict whereby Mr. Sam Rainsy was found guilty of destroying public property was upheld in March 2011 by the Supreme Court, and the National Assembly stripped Mr. Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary mandate on 15 March 2011 by virtue of Article 34 of the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly, which stipulates that members convicted at final instance of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment forfeit their membership in the National Assembly,
Recalling that no one disputes the fact that the border between Viet Nam and Cambodia is currently being demarcated, that border post #185 was a temporary wooden post, that the Government recognized that it was not a legal border marker, as confirmed by the Prime Minister himself in his response to a question from Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) parliamentarians on this matter, stating inter alia that “because the joint technical group from the two countries has not planted border post #185 yet, the border demarcation work, which is the work of the joint technical group after the planting of that post, has not started either”, and that, following the publication of the Prime Minister’s response, Mr. Sam Rainsy asked for a review of his sentence in the case concerning the destruction of property and incitement to racial hatred; recalling further that there is at present no map recognized as official and binding by Viet Nam and Cambodia,

Recalling that, according to the members of the Cambodian delegation heard during the 126th IPU Assembly (Kampala, March-April 2012), Mr. Sam Rainsy should have raised his concerns regarding the border between Viet Nam and Cambodia in the National Assembly; recalling in this regard that, when opposition parliamentarians asked for a public parliamentary debate on the issue, the Government reportedly refused to take part, arguing that it had already provided all necessary explanations in the past,

Considering that the Minister of Justice, in his meeting with the Secretary General, said that Mr. Sam Rainsy had created a very dangerous situation on the border when he removed the border post, thereby putting many persons’ lives at risk, and that this was tantamount to a serious provocation that could have endangered the security of the country,

Recalling the following: in his report of 16 July 2012 to the United Nations Human Rights Council (A/HRC/21/63), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia stated that “respect for freedom of expression, opinion and assembly remains a principal concern in Cambodia (…) It appears that many Cambodians exercise self-censorship in what they say and write, provoked by a fear of arrest and detention. This holds particularly true in respect of people wishing to express views critical of those in power (…)”, and that “a political solution should be found to enable [Mr. Sam Rainsy], as the leader of the opposition, to play a full role in Cambodian politics. The Special Rapporteur believes that a concerted effort by the ruling and opposition parties towards reconciliation is in the interests of strong and deeper democratization of Cambodia”; in his previous report of August 2011 (A/HRC/18/46), the Special Rapporteur expressed concern at the use of the judiciary for political ends and had the following to say regarding the Sam Rainsy case in particular: “The allegation made by the Government was that Mr. Sam Rainsy had manipulated a map to show that Viet Nam had encroached on the territory of Cambodia. In any properly functioning democracy, such political matters should be debated in the parliament and become a matter of public debate rather than the subject of a criminal case before courts. Scrutinizing the activities of the Government and requiring the Government to respond to any criticisms of its policy decisions is one of the basic functions of the leaders of opposition parties and they should not be subjected to criminal proceedings for discharging their responsibilities in a peaceful manner”; the Special Rapporteur recommended inter alia that “Parliament should safeguard the right to freedom of expression of its own members and protect their parliamentary immunity”,

Recalling that, according to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Sam Rainsy was not eligible for a pardon because he had challenged two of the cases in court and those challenges remained pending, which meant that the legal process had not yet been completed; considering that Mr. Sam Rainsy has since withdrawn those challenges,

Considering that parliamentary elections are to be held on 28 July 2013 and that, on the occasion of his visit to Cambodia, the Secretary General discussed the IPU’s continued assistance to the National Assembly with the parliamentary authorities he met,

  1. Thanks the Minister of Justice, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the First Commission of the National Assembly for their extensive cooperation;

  2. Considers, however, that the information they provide does not dispel its long-standing concerns that Mr. Sam Rainsy’s removal of a temporary border marker was a political gesture and that, consequently, the courts should never have been seized of the matter in the first place;

  3. Deeply regrets, therefore, that, with elections drawing near, it has not been possible for Mr. Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia and make, as the country’s principal opposition leader, a meaningful contribution to free and fair elections;

  4. Renews its call on the ruling and opposition parties to do everything possible to work together as a matter of urgency with a view to helping ensure that Mr. Sam Rainsy can stand as a candidate in the elections; sincerely hopes that the fact that Mr. Sam Rainsy has withdrawn his challenges in the two ongoing court cases will facilitate and accelerate this outcome;

  5. Calls on the soon-to-be-elected National Assembly to promote healthy working relationships within parliament, including by ensuring that all parties are consulted and have a say when parliament takes major decisions, that the rights and responsibilities of the opposition are duly upheld and that there is full respect for parliamentary immunity; suggests that the IPU, as part of its ongoing programme of assistance to the National Assembly, explore with the parliamentary authorities the possibility of sharing its expertise for this purpose;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities and the sources;

  7. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.
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