TrialWatch Condemns Trial Against Theary Seng as “Travesty of Justice” With an “F” Grade

Print version in issue 343, Oct. 1, 2022 page 1 of 2
Print version in issue 343, Oct. 1, 2022. page 2 of 2

September 15 — Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch Initiative and the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights released a 43-page Trial Observation Report: Cambodia v. Theary Seng, a Cambodian American human rights defender, as “a travesty of justice” and giving the trial’s procedure an “F” grade.

According to the report, an “F” signifies “a trial that entailed a gross violation of international standards that affected the outcome and/or resulted in significant harm.”

Jared Genser, Theary Seng’s international pro bono counsel who was banned by Hun Sen’s government from entering Cambodia after attending her trial in December 2021 said “we concur in this assessment.”

In 2019, Theary was summoned to court among 46 others who were members of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as part of a systemic crackdown on the opposition party and government critics. The report detailed the gross violations of her legal due process and as well as international human right standards which Cambodia is obligated to respect under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or ICCRP.

Theary was convicted and sentenced six years to prison on conspiracy to commit treason and incitement to social disorder. The trial concluded on June 14, 2022 after a series of multiple delays without evidence of criminal conduct during prosecution but focused on facebook posts Theary made in support of opposition party leader – Sam Rainsy, who also recently convicted of treason in abstenia. The trial against Theary “exposed egregious and blatant violations of the rule of law and administration of justice… Ms. Seng’s conviction is part of a persistent, documented pattern of misuse of Cambodia’s incitement law,” wrote the report.

Andrew Khoo, co-chair of the Malaysian Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee was assigned as TrialWatch Expert for Theary’s case and co-authored the report with staff at the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights said “This case was all but pre-determined. Theary Seng was convicted not because of what she did, but because she supported democratic change in Cambodia.  Her continued incarceration constitutes arbitrary detention under the ICCPR, which prohibits imprisoning someone for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Theary is currently detained in Preah Vihear Prison, near Thailand’s border, one of Cambodia’s most notorious facilities.  She was clandestinely transferred there from Phnom Penh, far away from her family and lawyer, on June 15, 2022.  According to Jared in a latest email to Khmer Post USA, on August 20, Theary became ill with COVID-19.  She lives in an overcrowded, 15 x 15-foot cell with 20 other women.  Her lawyer filed for bail and for transfer back to Phnom Penh on August 24, but both motions were denied.  Her appeal is still pending. Friends who attempt to visit her are denied entry.  She was initially denied access to her brother and lawyer, but now they are the only two people who can visit her in prison.

“Theary’s trial was a political sham, and her current conditions are abysmal. We call upon the international community and the U.S. Government to press for her immediate and unconditional release,” wrote Jared.