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Cambodia
10.02.21
Urgent Interventions

Cambodia: Arbitrary detention and subsequent release of five environmental rights defenders

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

    KHM 001 / 0221 / OBS 018
    Arbitrary detention /
    Release
    Cambodia
    February 10, 2021

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

    Description of the situation:

    The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and subsequent release of environmental and land rights defenders Ouch Leng, Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run and Torng Cheang.

    On February 5, 2021, officials working for the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia arrested Ouch Leng, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run, and Torng Cheang, in the protected Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie Province, where they were collecting evidence of illegal logging in the area. They were subsequently taken to the Provincial Forestry Office of Kratie on accusations of “entering the protected area without permission”. Authorities seized their cameras, GPS devices, banners, and memory cards, which contained evidence of illegal logging.

    On February 8, 2021, Ouch Leng, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run and Torng Cheang were released without charge after being forced to sign a document requiring them to cease their activities inside the protected areas of Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. The document further required them to stop sharing footage, photos or information about the forest with other organisations without the authorities’ permission.

    The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention of Ouch Leng, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run and Torng Cheang, as well as the obligation to stop their human rights activities in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary imposed on them as a condition for their release. The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time environmental defenders working to protect the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary have been subjected to acts of harassment, as Ouch Leng was previously arrested in connection with his work in the area in February 2020.

    The Observatory reiterates its deepest concern over the Cambodian authorities’ systematic use of legal harassment and a politicized judiciary to target all critical voices, including environmental rights defenders. The Observatory further expresses grave concern over the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, particularly the increased obstacles to the exercise of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in Cambodia.

    The Observatory calls upon the authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ouch Leng, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run and Torng Cheang, as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

    Actions requested:

    Please write to the authorities of Cambodia to urge them to:

    1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ouch Leng, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run, and Torng Cheang and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;
    1. Put an end to all acts of harassment -including at the judicial level- against Ouch Leng, Heng Sros, Men Mat, Heng Run, and Torng Cheang and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia.

    Addresses:

    • Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh / cppparty@gmail.com
    • Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: moi@cambodia.gov.kh
    • Mr. Keut Rith, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: info@moj.gov.kh
    • Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh / mfaicasean@mfaic.gov.kh
    • Mr. Suon Visal, President of the Cambodian Bar Association. Email: info@bakc.org.kh
    • Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh

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

    ***

    Geneva-Paris, February 10, 2021

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

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

    To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

    • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
    • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
    • Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
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