Cambodia: Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Heng Sok

09/03/2018
Urgent Appeal

KHM 002 / 0318 / OBS 026
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
March 9, 2018

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Heng Sok, a community leader in Kiri Sakor District, Koh Kong Province. Mr. Heng Sok has been representing families involved in a dispute concerning 103 hectares of land granted to the LYP Group as part of an agricultural economic land concession in 2010 inside the Botum Sakor National Park. LYP Group is owned by ruling party Senator Mr. Ly Yong Phat, who has been involved in a various instances of land-grabbing.

According to the information received, on February 23, 2018, four LYP Group security guards asked Mr. Heng Sok to get inside a car and told him they would go to the company to settle a dispute over boundary markers that Mr. Heng Sok had installed on disputed company land. Instead, they brought Mr. Heng Sok to the commune police station in Koh Kong Province, who sent him to the Koh Kong provincial police station. Mr. Heng Sok was arrested after the LYP Group filed a complaint against him in connection with efforts to install boundary markers on land at the centre of a land dispute between 50 local families and the LYP Group. The LYP Group argued that Mr. Heng Sok lacked the necessary documentation to install the boundary markers on the land.

On February 25, 2018, Mr. Heng Sok was brought before the Koh Kong Provincial Court and charged with “using violence on the property owner” under Article 253 of the Land Management Law. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison and a 25,000,000 KHR fine (approximately 5,050 Euros). Yet several sources reported that Mr. Heng Sok did not resort to any form of violence while installing the boundary markers.

Mr. Heng Sok was subsequently placed in pre-trial detention. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, he remained detained at Koh Kong’s provincial prison.

In December 2017, Mr. Heng Sok submitted a petition to Koh Kong provincial authorities to ask for their intervention in the land dispute with the LYP Group. In early December 2017, the LYP Group had allegedly used bulldozers to clear the disputed land, which affected 50 families, caused protests, and resulted in a complaint being filed to the Koh Kong Provincial Court. The LYP Group received an agricultural economic land concession from the Environment Ministry in 2010 to develop a rubber plantation on 9,977 hectares of land inside the Botum Sakor National Park.

The Observatory strongly condemns Mr. Heng Sok’s arbitrary detention, which only aim at punishing him for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Heng Sok, and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him.

The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time that Senator Mr. Ly Yong Phat’s LYP Group is involved in acts of harassment against human rights defenders. In particular, in January 2018, Messrs. Hun Vannak and Doem Kundy, two members of the environmental grassroots organisation ‘Mother Nature Cambodia’, were sentenced to one year in prison and a one million riel fine for filming suspected illegal sand dredging activity by Senator Ly Yong Phat’s company in Koh Kong Province [1].

The Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to cease the harassment of all human rights defenders in Cambodia, including land rights defenders, so that they can carry out their activities free of any hindrance or reprisals.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Cambodian authorities asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Heng Sok and all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Heng Sok as his arbitrary detention merely aims at punishing him for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, againstMr. Heng Sok and all human rights defenders in Cambodia so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments to which Cambodia is a State party.

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 364119
· Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 216 144 / +855 23 216141, Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh
· Mr. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee. Fax: +855 12 813781 / +855 23 211162 or +855 23 881045 (c/o Council of Ministers)
· Mr. Suon Visal, President of the Cambodian Bar Association. Fax: +855 23 864076, 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, March 9, 2018

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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