Cambodia: Arbitrary arrest and pre-trial detention of Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy

15/09/2017
Urgent Appeal

KHM 002 / 0917 / OBS 100
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
September 15, 2017

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

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary arrest and pre-trial detention of Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy, two members of the grassroots environmental rights organisation ‘Mother Nature Cambodia’, for filming two suspected sand-bearing large vessels anchored off the coast of Prek Ksach commune, in Koh Kong province.

According to the information received, on September 12, 2017, at 10:45 am, Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy were arrested as they were on a small speedboat off the coast of Koh Kong province, and were taken to Koh Kong provincial police headquarters for questioning. They had just finished filming two large vessels that were suspected to be ready to carry silica sand for export. The video was aimed at asking prominent businessman and ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) Senator Ly Yong Phat [1], who owns the nearby Special Economic Zone where the sand had been extracted from, why the ships appeared not to be broadcasting an Automatic Identification System signal, meaning they did not appear on online ship tracking databases. The police were reportedly acting on a complaint issued by the company Kirisakor Koh Kong S.E.Z, under the control of Ly Yong Phat Group Co Ltd., which claimed that the activists were filming “inside the company’s private land”.

On September 13, 2017, Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy were interviewed by Koh Kong Prosecutor without any lawyer present. Koh Kong Provincial Court subsequently charged them with “incitement to commit a felony” and “violation of privacy (recording of a person’s image)” (Article 302 of the Criminal Code). If found guilty of these charges, they could face up to three years in prison.

Both Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy were subsequently placed in pre-trial detention in Prek Svay prison, Khmerak Phumin city, Koh Kong province, where they remained detained as of issuing this Urgent Appeal. They now have access to a lawyer.

Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy’s arrest happened a day after Mother Nature Cambodia had published a video online exposing huge discrepancies in silica sand trade figures with Taiwan, highlighting more than $30 million in undocumented and potentially illegal exports. The video has been viewed 1.1 million times, and shared more than 57,000 times on Facebook. Mother Nature has repeatedly sought to expose discrepancies in trade figures between Cambodia and third countries, including India and Singapore, which would indicate large scale sand smuggling. The Observatory believes that this video might be the real reason behind the arrest of Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy.

The Observatory recalls that several Mother Nature Cambodia members have faced legal action and have been harassed and imprisoned for their campaigning against illicit sand dredging in Koh Kong Province [2].

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and pre-trial detention of Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy, which only aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy and to put an end to all acts of harassment against then and all human rights defenders in Cambodia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cambodia asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy, as well as all detained human rights defenders in Cambodia, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy and all human rights defenders in the country so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments signed or ratified by the Kingdom of 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
· Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 364 119
· Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 216 144 / 855 23 216 141, Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh
· Mr. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, Fax: +855 12 81 37 81 / +855 23 21 11 62 or +855 23 88 10 45 (c/o Council of Ministers)
· Mr. Suon Visal, President of the Cambodian Bar Association, Fax: +855 23 864 076, 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 also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, September 15, 2017

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 and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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