Cambodia: court frees garment worker protesters

A Cambodian court on May 30 convicted 23 workers and activists for inciting violence during a mass garment workers' strike but suspended their jail sentence, which had caused much controversy and international scrutiny. The ruling reverses the February decision of an appeals court, which refused the release of the workers and activists facing criminal charges. It has been reported that international brands such as H&M, Puma and the Gap have threatened to pull out of Cambodia if efforts are not made to prevent further human rights violations, fearing a "public relations problem." Dave Welsh, a representative of the US-based labor group Solidarity Center, stated in regard to the ruling: "The main thing is there's just an enormous amount of relief—first of all with them, with their families, and with the trade union and human rights community in general—that they are going to be freed."

The political atmosphere in Cambodia has been tense since last year's elections, resulting in a crackdown on protesters. In January the International Labour Organization (ILO) called for cooperation amongst all parties involved in escalating violence in Cambodia, demanding a release of detained union strikers and a government probe into anti-protest police tactics. Earlier that month, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Cambodian authorities to exercise restraint when dealing with protestors. Days beforehand Cambodia banned rallies and marches in the capital Phnom Penh, and authorities removed more than 1,000 anti-government protesters from the capital the same day.

From Jurist, May 31. Used with permission.