PHNOM PENH – Human Rights Watch demanded on Thursday that the Cambodian government free five activists detained for more than seven months and accused the government of interfering in the judicial system to persecute its critics.
HRW’s denunciation comes a day after the Supreme Court denied bail to the five human rights activists detained since April 28.
HRW Asia Director Brad Adams urged donor countries and United Nations to denounce the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who publicly favored the imprisonment of the activists.
“The Supreme Court showed its political bias in refusing bail for five human rights defenders criminally charged for doing their jobs in a way the government didn’t like,” said Adams in a press release.
The activists, members of Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, are accused of bribing a witness for which they are facing imprisonment of five to 10 years.
The witness filed a complaint against government persecution in March but a month later accused the NGO workers providing her with legal advice for paying her to lie.
The witness was under investigation for prostitution in a case involving opposition leader Kem Sokha, who has refused to appear in the court and is hiding in his party office to avoid arrest.
“No one should mistake these prosecutions for anything other than Prime Minister Hun Sen’s effort to undo decades of work by Cambodian groups and the UN to promote the human rights of all Cambodians,” said Adams.
The Cambodian government also threatened to shut down the UN human rights office, which denounced the rise in suppression of activists and opposition members.
According to human rights organization Licadho, in July about 27 people were imprisoned for political reasons in Cambodia.