June 03, 2021

ABA Center for Human Rights TrialWatch Report: Cambodia violated Theary Seng’s fair trial rights

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2021 – The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, in conjunction with the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative, issued a TrialWatch Fairness Report that determined the criminal prosecution of lawyer Theary Seng in Cambodia violates her fair trial rights and her right to freedom of expression.

Seng is a Cambodian-American lawyer who emigrated to the United States from Cambodia as a child after her parents died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. She returned to Cambodia to work on social and political issues, including by serving as the founding director of the Center for Cambodian Civic Education. Seng is an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

In November 2020, Seng was charged with conspiracy to commit treason and incitement of social disorder. She is being tried alongside 46 co-accused, including opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy, and is facing a 12-year prison sentence. Due to the authorities’ failure to provide information regarding the allegations, Seng has been unable to prepare a defense. The charging document contains no mention of Seng besides her name as one of 47 accused. No factual details are provided. Seng’s attempts to obtain additional information have been rebuffed by both the prosecution and the court.

The report determines that the lack of information as to Seng’s alleged criminal wrongdoing suggests that the prosecution is but a pretext to curtail her freedom of expression and, further, that it is meant to serve as a broader warning to dissenting voices.

A copy of the ABA Center for Human Rights TrialWatch Fairness Report can be read here.

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The Clooney Foundation for Justice's TrialWatch initiative monitors criminal prosecutions of vulnerable persons around the world. For more information, go to https://cfj.org/project/trialwatch/