KHM006 / 1212 / OBS 119
Judicial harassment / Arbitrary detention
TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federationfor Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Cambodia.
TheObservatory has been informed by the Cambodian League for the Promotion andDefense of Human Rights (LICADHO) of the ongoing judicial harassment againstMs. Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony, two prominent land housing rightsdefenders.
Accordingto the information received, on December 26, 2012 at 2 pm, Phnom Penh MunicipalCourt will open the trial against Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony, for“assaulting a suspected thief” and making a “false declaration” to obtainaccommodation for her disabled son. They face between six months and five yearsin jail and a fine between 250 to 2,500 US dollars if found guilty.
TheObservatory recalls that both were arrested in early September 2012 and havebeen held in pre-trial detention since then (See background information).
TheObservatory fears that the authoritieshave levelled baseless charges against them because of their peaceful strugglefor land and housing rights. Therefore, it reiteratesits demand on the Cambodian authorities for their immediate and unconditionalrelease and the lift of pending charges, as their detention and judicialharassment seem to merely aim at obstructing their human rights activities andappear to be a result of them exercising their right to freedoms of expressionand association.
The families from the BoeungKak Lake (BKL) community have been battling forced evictions since 2007, whenthe Government leased their land to a company, Shukaku Inc, for development. InMay 2012, after 15 members of the BKL community were violently and arbitrarilyarrested, Ms. Yorm Bopha, 29, was at the forefront of the campaign for theirrelease. She maintained a high profile presence at every demonstration, becamea media spokesperson for the campaign, and did not shy away from publiclycriticizing government officials. This new- found prominence brought with itthe attention of the authorities – she was verbally threatened, harassed andintimidated.
On September 4, 2012, Ms. YormBopha, 64, a pivotal figure in the protests against forced evictions ofresidents from the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh, was detained forallegedly assaulting a person who was suspected of stealing. Ms. Bopha hasdenied the allegations, saying she was not even present at the scene. She iscurrently being held in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh,awaiting judicial investigation for “intentional violence with aggravatingcircumstances” under Article 218 of the Penal Code.
In a separate case, Ms. TimSakmony, a leader in protests against forced evictions from Borei Keila,another area of Phnom Penh was arrested on September 5, 2012. The arrest cameafter the owner of Borei Keila developer Phanimex filed a complaint allegingthat Ms. Sakmony made a “false declaration” in a request for the PhanimexCompany to compensate her disabled son for having failed to provide him with anapartment after his eviction from Borei Keila in January 2012. Phaminex wasoriginally granted land in Borei Keila conditional upon the construction of tenapartment buildings to rehouse residents, but has only built eight buildings.Ms. Sakmony is also being held in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison,pending judicial investigation for making a “false declaration to a public bodyfor the purpose of obtaining an allowance, a payment or any unlawful advantage”under Article 633 of the Penal Code.
Pleasewrite to the Cambodian authorities urging them to:
- Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;
- Release Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at obstructing their human rights activities and appears to be a result of exercising their right to freedoms of expression and association;
- Put an end to acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony and all human rights defenders in Cambodia;
- Comply with all 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, whichstates that “everyone has the right, individually or in association withothers, to promote the protection and realization of human rights andfundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- Article 12.1, whichforesees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association withothers, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of humanrights and fundamental freedoms”,
- and its Article 12.2which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure theprotection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and inassociation with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de factoor de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as aconsequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in thepresent Declaration.”
v. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and otherinternational human rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.
· Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Officeof the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 36 06 66 /855 23 88 06 24 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. H.E. Ang Vong Vathna, Ministerof Justice, No 240, Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: 023364119. Email: email@example.com
· Mr. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Ministerand Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh,Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 212708. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Deputy PrimeMinister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh,Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 61 44 / + 855 23 21 69 39. Email: email@example.com
· Ambassador Mr. Sun Suon, PermanentMission of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, Casepostale 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in yourrespective countries.
Geneva-Paris,December 21, 2012
Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.
TheObservatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of HumanRights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 /01 43 55 18 80
 See Observatory Press Release issuedon September 13 and November 16, 2012.