5 Year Anniversary Of Kem Ley’s Death

On 10 July 2016, against a backdrop of escalating attacks on civil society and the political opposition in the country, Kem Ley was shot in a café at a petrol station in central Phnom Penh.

Police quickly arrested Oeuth Ang – who inexplicably identified himself as “Choub Samlab” or “Meet to Kill” – as he fled the scene. According to police, the suspect “confessed” to the killing and claimed his motive was an unpaid debt of US$3000 Kem Ley owed him, a claim disputed by Kem Ley’s widow and Oeuth Ang’s wife.

On 23 March 2017, after a half-day trial hearing, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Oeuth Ang guilty of the murder of Kem Ley and sentenced him to life imprisonment. To date, there has been no independent, impartial and effective investigation to establish whether anyone else was involved in the killing. On 24 May 2019, Cambodia’s Supreme Court rejected Oeuth Ang’s appeal to reduce sentence and upheld his life imprisonment term.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have previously highlighted key aspects of the case that have not been adequately investigated and were not adequately addressed at trial. The failure to address such deficiencies raises concerns about prosecutors’ priorities to secure a quick conviction rather than comprehensively investigating the case, including uncovering information about other possible conspirators who may have been involved.

In light of these failings, the conduct of the investigation cannot credibly be said to have been thorough, independent, impartial or effective as required by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a party and the revised Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016).