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Cambodia
06.08.20
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Mr. Rong Chhun

KHM 001 / 0820 / OBS089

Arbitrary detention /

Judicial harassment

Cambodia

August 6, 2020

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT) and FIDH requests your urgent intervention in thefollowing situation in Cambodia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory hasbeen informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicialharassment against Mr. Rong Chhun, a prominent workers’ rights defender,President of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), and member of theCambodian Watchdog Council (CWC)[1].

According to theinformation received, on the night of July 31, 2020, Mr. Rong Chhun wasarbitrarily arrested at his home in Phnom Penh by police officers. On August 1,2020, Mr. Chhun was charged with “incitement to commit a felony or cause socialunrest” (Article 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Code) by the Phnom PenhMunicipal Court and was subsequently transferred to pre-trial detention in theovercrowded Correction Centre 1 (CC1), in Phnom Penh. If convicted, Mr. Chhuncould face a sentence of two years of imprisonment.

The arrest of Mr. Chhunfollowed a written statement issued by the Cambodia Border Affairs Committee onJuly 31, 2020 claiming that Mr. Chhun had issued a false and exaggeratedstatement on July 21, 2020 intended to stir social unrest and publicmisunderstanding[2].On that day, Mr Chhun, following a trip to Tboung Khmum Province near the borderbetween Cambodia and Vietnam on July 20, published on his personal social mediaaccount a statement on behalf of the CWC in which he reported alleged communityland loss in the border area.

Furthermore, in aninterview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) on July 31, Mr. Chhun addressed thestatement issued by the government and further discussed the concerns ofvillagers and farmers affected by the alleged land loss. Mr. Chhun was arrestedshortly after the radio interview.

The Observatory recallsthat this is not the first time Mr. Chhun has been subjected to arbitraryarrest and judicial harassment by Cambodian authorities. In December 2018, sixworkers’ rights defenders, including Mr. Chhun, were convicted, sentenced to asuspended prison sentence, and fined 35 million riel (US$8,700) each for theiralleged role in the 2013 and 2014 Phnom Penh protests calling for higherminimum wage for informal workers[3].In 2005, Mr. Chhun spent three months in prison on charges of “defamation” and“inciting others to commit a crime” for a public statement he made on theborder agreement between Vietnam and Cambodia[4].

The Observatorystrongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Mr. Chhun,which seem to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rightsactivities, and reiterates its deepest concern about the fact that freedom ofexpression of independent union leaders and human rights defenders in Cambodiahas been increasingly repressed by the government since the run-up to the 2018general election[5].

The Observatory urgesthe Cambodian authorities to guarantee the physical integrity and psychologicalwell-being of Mr. Chhun and to immediately and unconditionally release him fromthe overcrowded CC1 prison in order to protect his health in the currentcontext of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as all human rights defendersarbitrarily detained in Cambodia, as recommended by the United Nations HighCommissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet[6].

Actions requested:

Please write to theauthorities of Cambodia to urge them to:

i. To guarantee in allcircumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. RongChhun and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Immediately andunconditionally release Mr. Rong Chhun, since his detention is arbitrary as itseems to be merely aimed at punishing him for his human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all actsof harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Rong Chhun andall other workers’ rights defenders and human rights defenders, in Cambodia,and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out theirlegitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform in any circumstances withthe provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted onDecember 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular itsArticles 1, 6 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respectfor human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with internationalhuman rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the 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 and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 212708, Email: moi@cambodia.gov.kh
  • Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 364119, Email: moj@cambodia.gov.kh
  • Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 216 144 / +855 23 216141, Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh / mfaicasean@mfaic.gov.kh
  • Mr. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee. Fax: +855 12 813781 / +855 23 211162 / +855 23 881045 (c/o Council of Ministers)
  • Mr. Suon Visal, President of the Cambodian Bar Association. Fax: +855 23 864076, Email: info@bakc.org.kh
  • Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 788 77 74, Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh

Please alsowrite to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respectivecountries.

***

Geneva-Paris, August 6, 2020

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

The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programmeis to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human RightsDefenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call theemergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 79 539 41 06 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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


[1] The CWC is a coalition of severalnon-governmental organisations and unions, including the Independent TeachersAssociation, the Independent Government Workers Association, the StudentMovement for Democracy, the Independent Farmers Association and the Free TradeUnion of Workers of Kingdom of Cambodia, advocating for human rights andmonitoring government activities.

[2] See “Statement bythe Joint Committee on Border Affairs announces the complete rejection of thestatement by Rong Chhun, Representative of the Cambodian Monitoring Council,which issued a false and exaggerated statement on 20 July, 2020”: https://pressocm.gov.kh/archives/66755

[3] See The Observatory report ‘Down butnot out. Repression of human rights defenders in Cambodia’, published on July9, 2020.

[4] See OMCT Urgent Appeal Case KHM201005.1, published on January 20, 2006.

[5] SeeThe Observatory report ‘Down butnot out. Repression of human rights defenders in Cambodia’, published on July9, 2020.

[6] Seehttps://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25745&LangID=E

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