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Urgent Interventions

Civil Society Condemns Charging of Human Rights Defenders

We, the undersigned human rights and other civil societyorganisations, condemn in the strongest terms the politically-motivated chargingof six human rights defenders from a Cambodian human rights group, the country’sNational Election Committee (NEC) and the United Nation’s Office of the HighCommissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR). The targeting of these individuals,five of whom were sent to pre-trial detention today, is the latest escalationin a far-reaching government assault on civil society ahead of upcoming localand national elections, and is a clear reprisal for support provided by rightsworkers in a politically-sensitive case.

(c) Licadho

Four senior staff of the Cambodian Human Rights and DevelopmentAssociation (ADHOC) – Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony – were today chargedwith bribery of a witness under Criminal Code Article 548 and sent to CC1 andCC2 prisons in Phnom Penh. In addition, former ADHOC staffer Ny Chakrya,recently appointed deputy secretary-general of the NEC, and UNOHCHR staffer SoenSally were charged as accomplices to bribery of a witness (Criminal CodeArticles 29 & 548). Ny Chakrya was sent to Police Judiciare (PJ) prison. Ifconvicted, all six could be sentenced to between five and ten years’imprisonment.

The six human rights defenders were summonsed by the Anti-Corruption Unit(ACU) for questioning last week and all but the UNOHCHR staffer subject to at least four days ofinterrogation – firstly by the ACU and then by the prosecutor – in relation toa complaint signed by Khom Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom. The complaintwas lodged following her questioning by anti-terrorism police and a prosecutor aboutan alleged affair with deputy opposition leader Khem Sokha, after ADHOC respondedto Srey Mom’s request for legal and material assistance. In the context of suchsupport, ADHOC provided Srey Mom with $204 to cover food and transport costs,including to attend questioning by judicial authorities. This legitimate expenditure of asmall sum of money to cover basic expenses of a client is now grotesquely beingportrayed by the ACU as bribery and corruption.

The targeting of UNOHCHR staffer Soen Sally by the ACU and the courthas disregarded his diplomatic immunity as an employee of the United Nations.The ACU, and later the Prime Minister himself, both argued that Soen Sally doesnot enjoy such protection.

The case is a farcical use of both the criminal justice system andstate institutions as tools to intimidate, criminalise and punish thelegitimate activities of human rights defenders and civil society. The ACU wascreated to tackle the endemic corruption prevalent in Cambodia, not to operateas a vehicle for government repression of civil society. The involvement of Ministryof Interior Central Security officers alongside ACU personnel dealing with thecase clearly demonstrates the securitization of civil society activities.

Under international human rightslaw, including treaties that Cambodia has ratified, Cambodia is legally boundto respect and protect the human rights of all people under its jurisdiction,including the rights to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and freedomof expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“The charges brought against the six human rights defenders areblatantly politically-motivated and a direct attack against those serving peoplewho fall prey to Cambodia’s government,” said Naly Pilorge, LICADHO director.“These mounting attacks represent an alarming tightening of the noose aroundcivil society and those who work to uphold human rights, and clearly show thatthe government’s ultimate aim is total control ahead of the upcoming elections.”

Civil society reiterates its strong condemnation of the charges,demands the release on bail of the five and reaffirms the rights andfundamental freedoms of peaceful human rights defenders to conduct theiractivities free from threats and punishment. We further call for the judicialinvestigation to be conducted impartially and call for an end to executiveinterference in the judiciary.

This statement is endorsed by:

1. Alliance for ConflictTransformation (ACT)

2. Boeung Kak Community

3. Boeung Trabek Community

4. Borei Keila Community

5. Beung Pram LandCommunity

6. Building and WoodWorkers Trade Union (BWTUC)

7. Building Community Voice(BCV)

8. CamASEAN Youth

9. Cambodia DevelopmentPeople Life Association

10. Cambodian Alliance ofTrade Unions (CATU)

11. Cambodian Center forHuman Rights (CCHR)

12. Cambodian DomesticWorkers Network (CDWN)

13. Cambodian Food andService Workers' Federation (CFSWF)

14. Cambodian Human RightsAction Committee (CHRAC)

15. Cambodian IndependentCivil-Servants Association (CICA)

16. Cambodian IndependentTeachers Association (CITA)

17. Cambodian InformalEconomic Workers Association (CIWA)

18. Cambodian LabourConfederation (CLC)

19. Cambodian League for thePromotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

20. Cambodian NGO Committeeon CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW)

21. Cambodian Tourism andService Workers Federation (CTSWF)

22. Cambodian Youth Network(CYN)

23. Center for Alliance ofLabor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)

24. Christians for SocialJustice

25. Coalition for Integrity& Social Accountability (CISA)

26. Coalition of Cambodianfarmer Community (CCFC)

27. Community LegalEducation Center (CLEC)

28. Community Peace-BuildingNetwork (CPN)

29. Equitable Cambodia

30. FIDH, within theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

31. Former Boeung Kak WomenNetwork Community

32. Forum Asia

33. Gender and Developmentfor Cambodia (GADC)

34. Housing Rights TaskForce (HRTF)

35. Independent DemocraticAssociation of Informal Economic (IDEA)

36. Independent Monk Networkfor Social Justice (IMNSJ)

37. Indigenous Youth atBrome Commune, Preah Vihear Province

38. Indradevi Association(IDA)

39. Land Community, IVillage Preah Sihanouk Province

40. Land Community, PrekChik Village, Koh Kong Province

41. LICADHO Canada

42. Lor Peang community,Kampong Chhnang Province

43. Mother Nature

44. Peace BridgesOrganization (PBO)

45. Phnom Bat Community

46. Phum 23 Community

47. Ponlok Khmer

48. Prek Takung Community

49. Prek Tanou Community

50. Samakum Teang Tnaut(STT)

51. SOS InternationalAirPort Community

52. Strey Khmer

53. Thmor Kol Community (TK)

54. Toul Sangke B Community

55. Tumnop II Community

56. Urban Poor WomenDevelopment

57. Wat Than Monk Network

58. World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders

59. Youth ResourceDevelopment Program (YRDP)

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