The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.
Brief description of the information:
The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Ven Vorn, an Areng Valley environmental activist and a community leader for the indigenous Chong minority in Koh Kong Province.
According to the information received, on October 7, 2015, at around 12.20pm, Mr. Ven Vorn was arrested and sent to Koh Kong provincial prison. The arrest followed the decision of Investigating Judge Mr. Min Makara, who had questioned Mr. Ven Vorn the same morning and charged him with “harvesting timber products and/or non-timber forest products without a permit” (Article 98 of the Forestry Law) and “destruction of evidence” (Article 533 of the Criminal Code).
Both of these charges relate to the construction by Mr. Vorn and a group of local activists of a small visitor centre and community meeting place for local activists involved in a campaign against the proposed construction of a hydropower dam in the Areng Valley. The hydropower dam poses a threat to their land, livelihood and the natural environment. For this project, Mr. Vorn and others had purchased approximately 10 cubic metres of wood from a vendor in 2014, which authorities claimed had been procured by the vendor through illegal logging.
On April 3, 2015, Mr. Ven Vorn was questioned at the Koh Kong provincial court in relation to the same alleged illegal logging incident before being released on the same day.
As of the issuing of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Ven Vorn remains in detention in Koh Kong provincial prison.
Mr. Ven Vorn has been targeted by the authorities in the past due to his human rights activities. On September 2, 2015, he was among 17 people arrested outside Koh Kong provincial court, where he was protesting for the release of three jailed activists from the environmental NGO Mother Nature, namely Messrs. Sim Somnang, Tri Sovikea and San Mala, who had also been involved in protests against the hydroelectric dam. They have been charged with “threatening to destroy dredging barges”, and have been in detention since August 17, 2015 in Koh Kong provincial prison.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of and judicial harassment against Mr. Ven Vorn, which only aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the Cambodian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.
Please write to the authorities of the Kingdom of Cambodia asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Ven Vorn, Sim Somnang, Tri Sovikea and San Mala as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;
ii. Release Messrs. Ven Vorn, Sim Somnang, Tri Sovikea and San Mala immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at curtailing their human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Ven Vorn, Sim Somnang, Tri Sovikea and San Mala as well as of 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:
Article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels",
as well as Article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration";
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.
· Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 41 Russian Federation Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 360666 / 855 23 880624 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
· Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 212708
· Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 240 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 364 119
· Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 216 144 / 855 23 216 141 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Fax: +855 23 882 065, Email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Om Yentieng, Minister & President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, Office of the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 12 81 37 81 / +855 23 21 11 62 or +855 23 88 10 45 (c/o Council of Ministers)
· Mr. Bun Hun, President of the Cambodian Bar Association, Building at the corner of Street 1129 and 1930, Sangkat Phnom Penh Thmei, Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Tel: +855 23 864 078. Fax: +855 23 864 076, Email: email@example.com
· Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, PO Box 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris, October 9, 2015
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH +33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80