Urgent Interventions

Release immediately all human rights defenders detained on the eve of ASEAN Summit!


CAMBODIA: Release immediately all human rights defenders detainedon the eve of ASEAN Summit!

Geneva-Paris, November 16, 2012. As the 21st Summit and RelatedSummits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is about to startthis Sunday in PhnomPenh, the Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for HumanRights (FIDH), urges the Cambodian authorities to immediately release Mr. Mam Sonando, Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms.Tim Sakmony and toput an end to any act of harassment against Cambodian human rights defenders.

From November 18 to 20,2012, the Cambodian capital will welcome the 21stASEAN Summit and the 7th East Asia Summit. On this occasion, theObservatory reiterates its call to the Cambodian authorities to put an end toany act of harassment against human rights defenders, when 2012 saw an increasein arbitrary arrests anddetention, judicial harassment, and, in some cases, assassination of defenders.

In particular, defendingeconomic, social and cultural rights has become increasingly risky forCambodian human rights defenders, especially when their activities run upagainst powerful private interests which have benefited from economic landconcessions granted by the Government as well as from protection of theirconcessions provided by State security forces.

On October 1, 2012, Mr. Mam Sonando, an outspoken advocate against human rights abuses, was sentenced to 20 years’imprisonment and a fine of 10 million riels after being found guilty on chargesof insurrection and inciting people to take up arms against the State, in theframework of a long-running land conflict with a private company in Kratie province.Mr. Sonando’s arrest also followed his reporting over Beehive Radio of a complaint lodged at the International CriminalCourt (ICC) arguing that land-grabbing in Cambodia amounts to a crime againsthumanity. A public call for his arrest was then issued by Prime Minister HunSen in a nationwide televised speech.

Similarly, women human rights defenders Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony remain detained since September 4 and5 respectively, on the basis of questionable allegations. Ms. Yorm Bopha, apivotal figure in the protests against forced evictions in the Boeung Kak areaof Phnom Penh, was detained for allegedly assaulting a person suspected oftheft. Ms. Tim Sakmony, a leader in protests against forced evictions from theBorei Keila area of the capital, was arrested after the owner of land developerPhanimex lodged a complaint alleging that she had made a “false declaration” ina suit accusing Phanimex of inadequate compensation for persons evicted fromland the company is developing.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Cambodianauthorities to release immediately and unconditionally Mr.Mam Sonando, Ms. YormBopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony, and to put an end to the judicialharassment against them, as well as against Mr. Chan Soveth, Senior Investigator and DeputyHead of the Monitoring Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and DevelopmentAssociation (ADHOC) - who is being prosecuted since August 2012 on the basis ofcharges that appear to be connected to the above-mentioned land dispute inKratie province -, and all human rights defenders in Cambodia, in compliance with the UnitedNations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declarationof Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratifiedby Cambodia.

The Observatory also urges theauthorities to establish the full truth and re-open an immediate, thorough,effective and impartial investigation into the extrajudicial killing ofprominent environmental activist Mr. Chut Wutty, Founder of the NationalResources Protection Group (NRPG), in Mondol Seima district, Koh Kong province,in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civilcompetent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal sanctions provided bythe law, after a Koh Kong courtconcluded onOctober 22 that Mr. Chut Wutty waskilled by a military police officer who was in turn fatally shot by a loggingcompany’s security guard, thereby terminating the investigation.

For furtherinformation, please contact:

· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 22 809 49 39

· FIDH: Arthur Manet / Audrey Couprie: + 331 43 55 25 18