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U.S. Court Cases Being Prepared on Assassinations Carried out by Government Officials in Cambodia

November 18, 2012


The report just released by Human Rights Watch, “Tell Them That I Want

to Kill Them — Two Decades of Impunity in Hun Sen’s Cambodia,”
describes more than 300 extra-judicial executions of political
opponents, human rights activists and labor leaders by top Cambodian
government officials and their associates over the past twenty years,
as a means to stifle political opposition and to retain power.  This
report could not come at a more perfect time.  Tomorrow President
Obama is scheduled to make the first visit by a sitting U.S. president
to Cambodia, and it is urgent that during this visit he bring
attention to the long-standing policy of the current Cambodian
government to engage in major human rights abuses, while preventing
the country’s law enforcement authorities and courts from acting to
secure justice for these crimes.

To bring further attention to these ongoing problems in association
with President Obama’s historic visit to Cambodia, I wish to announce
plans elaborated with my American lawyer in Washington D.C. to prepare
court cases to be brought before the United States courts against the
perpetrators of these assassinations identified in the Human Rights
Watch report.  These cases will be filed if and when any of these
perpetrators come to the United States.  A similar case along these
lines was successfully brought in Federal District Court in New York
City against Prime Minister Hun Sen himself in 2005 for his role in
using his private guard unit to carry out a grenade attack against a
meeting of political opposition groups that resulted in the death and
injury of many participants, and the wounding of a U.S. citizen
observing the demonstration.  The case was temporarily settled when
Mr. Hun Sen agreed to free a number of political prisoners and permit
my return to Cambodia after a year of forced exile following my
prosecution by a local court on politically motivated charges.

The preparation of these court actions will provide a means for
obtaining justice against major human rights abusers in Cambodia, who
until now have been cloaked with impunity because the Cambodian
government would not allow law enforcement authorities and the courts
to prosecute them.

These major human rights abusers now must be mindful that they have
been identified by the international community, and will be subject to
justice if they leave Cambodia.  Even the prime minister himself would
be subject to court action in the U.S. once again, as soon as he
leaves office and can no longer claim head of state immunity status.

In conjunction with President Obama’s visit to Cambodia, and the
issuance of the new Human Rights Watch report, the preparation of
these court cases will make clear that the prevailing policy of the
Cambodian government of providing impunity from prosecution in
Cambodia to major human rights abusers must end, and that no one who
carries out or facilitates these crimes, even those at the highest
levels of government, will be able to escape justice and international
condemnation.  The systemic human rights abuses of the present Phnom
Penh government, and their policy of repression of the political
opposition, must stop if true democracy is to be realized in Cambodia
by the time when national elections are held in 2013.

Sam Rainsy
Cambodia’s Opposition leader

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