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Cambodia
12.05.14
Urgent Interventions

Acts of intimidation and death threats against Mr. Vann Sophath, CCHR Land Reform Project Coordinator

KHM 003 / 0514 / OBS 037

Death threats

Cambodia

May 12, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) about acts of intimidation and death threats against Mr. Vann Sophath, CCHR Land Reform Project Coordinator, while conducting a visit at the site of a land dispute between the Khun Sear Company and three families in Sangkat Boeung Kak I, Khan Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh.

According to the information received, on May 9, 2014, at around 4:30pm, Mr. Vann Sophath went to the site of the land dispute while the Khun Sear Company security guards were demolishing the home of Mr. Ly Sreakheng’s family, one of the three families involved in the dispute, in order to produce footage for a documentary on the demolition of the site.

Mr. Sophath was then interrupted by a group of approximately six civilians, who are known as security guards for the Khun Sear Company and who were armed with knives, axes and hammers. They pushed him out of the site as others threatened to cut him on the head. One of the guards loudly insulted and screamed at Mr. Sophath, saying “Old fool! I will not allow you to be free”. The same security guard ordered another one to take a photograph of Mr. Sophath and of his car’s number plate. As a consequence, Mr. Sophath had to leave the site at around 4:50pm. Mr. Sophath is currently planning to lodge a complaint with respect to those events.

On April 25, 2014, Mr. Vann Sophath and his team first visited the site to begin producing documentary footage of Mr. Ly Sreakheng’s family. Around 10 Khun Sear Company security guards had then already tried to interrupt the shooting by verbally attacking Mr. Sreakheng, and one of the guards photographed the team, focusing on Mr. Sophath’s face.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the acts of harassment and death threats against Mr. Vann Sophath, which are directly related to his human rights activities. The Observatory urges the authorities of Cambodia to guarantee in all circumstances Mr. Sophath's psychological and physical integrity, as well as to conduct an immediate, thorough, effective, and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to justice, and apply the sanctions provided by the law.

Background information:

Mr. Ly Sreakheng and two other families have been living on the plot of land No. 18, Street 289 and 528, Khan Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh, since 1982. Prior to this, the land was occupied by the Vietnamese army between 1979 and 1982. In 1985, the Sangkat (Commune) Boeung Kak I opened an office in the same building and in 2005 so did the Cambodian Peoples’ Party. The three families attempted multiple times to register their lands under the 2001 Land Law but have continuously been ignored by the authorities. On October 4, 2010, the Council of Ministers issued a letter signed by Mr. Bun Huy, Secretary of State, transferring the disputed land to the Khun Sear Company. In order to proceed to the exchange, in 2013, the cadastral department of the Phnom Penh Municipality issued a land certificate stating that the disputed land belonged to the State. Since then, the Khun Sear Company has claimed ownership of the land. The three families, particularly Mr. Ly Srea Kheng’s, have been harassed and attacked again and again since May 2013 without any intervention from the authority to protect them. The company’s guards have destroyed the crops, disconnected electricity, damaged the material used for their business, beat members of the families, burned the house and are currently facing the demolishment of their house.

Actions requested:


The Observatory urges the authorities of Cambodia to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Vann Sophath, all CCHRmembers as well as all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Carry out an immediate, effective, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned events, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil, competent and impartial tribunal, and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to acts of harassment against Mr. Vann Sophath and all human rights defenders in Cambodia and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:

- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;

- and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Cambodia.

Addresses:

· Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 41 Russian Federation Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 360666 / 855 23 880624 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh / cppparty@gmail.com

· Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 212708.

· Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 240 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 364119.

· Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 216144 / + 855 23 216939. Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh

· Ms. Maria Fariello, Human Rights Defenders Focal Point, Delegation of the European Union to Cambodia, No. 100 A, Preah Norodom Boulevard, Khan Daun Penh, 12207 Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 216 997 Email: Delegation-Cambodia@eeas.europa.eu

· Mr. Ke Sovann, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, Case postale 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74. Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh orcambodge@bluewin.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, May 12, 2014

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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