In March, the historic first hearing of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC, Khmer Rouge Tribunal) took place with the trial of Kaing Guek Eav (known as Duch). Duch was commander of notorious security prison S-21. During the 72-day hearing, survivors and victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities heard for the first time evidence against "those most responsible". Duch admitted responsibility for crimes committed at S-21, including killing about 15,000 people.
The trial of four senior Khmer Rouge leaders was in preparation, and the International Co-Prosecutor submitted requests to open investigations into an additional five suspects. The Cambodian government spoke out against additional investigations saying they could lead to unrest, apparently in an attempt to exert influence over the tribunal.
In July, co-investigating judges decided to allow "confessions" obtained by torture as evidence in the case of Ieng Thirith. This breached the "exclusionary rule" in Article 15 of the UN Convention against Torture which binds the ECCC.
Freedom of expression
A series of prosecutions of people who criticized government policies had a stifling effect on freedom of expression.
- Courts sentenced newspaper editor Hang Chakra, and the director of an NGO, both affiliated to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), to prison terms for peacefully expressing views.
- The Phnom Penh Court convicted Mu Sochua, Secretary-General of the SRP, of defamation for filing a complaint – also for defamation – against the Prime Minister. She had no legal counsel because her lawyer had withdrawn from the case after receiving threats of legal action for speaking about the case at a press conference. Mu Sochua received a non-custodial sentence. On 10 July, one of the few remaining opposition affiliated daily newspapers, Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience), stopped publishing. The editor, Dam Sith, issued a public apology for articles, over which the government had requested a criminal investigation for "incitement".
- By the end of the year, police had made no progress on the investigation into the murder of Moneaksekar Khmer reporter Khim Sambor. He had been killed by unknown assailants during the July 2008 elections.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
On 12 October, the National Assembly passed the new Penal Code. This retained defamation as a criminal offence.
Opposition parliamentarians and civil society groups criticized a new Law on non-violent demonstrations, passed by the National Assembly in October. Authorities routinely denied permission for demonstrations and the law, if adopted, risked codifying such restrictions.
Violence against women and girls
Prosecution of rapists remained rare, due to poor law enforcement, corruption in the courts and widespread use of out-of-court financial settlements. Settlements were typically arranged by law enforcement officials and stipulated that the victim withdraw any criminal complaint. Reports indicated that rapes of women and girls, including sex workers, continued to increase, with the age of victims falling.
Amnesty International visits/reports
Amnesty International delegates visited Cambodia in March/May, September and October/December.Cambodia: Urban development or relocating slums? (29 May 2009)
Cambodia: After 30 years Khmer Rouge crimes on trial (27 March 2009)
Cambodia: Briefing for the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: 42nd session (6 April 2009)
Cambodia: Borei Keila – Lives at risk (1 May 2009)