Cambodia: #FreeThe5KH, arbitrarily detained for one year

Press release

(Geneva, Paris) The one-year anniversary of the arbitrary pre-trial detention of five human rights defenders marks a new low for the Cambodian Government, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) said today.

Today marks one year since four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, and former ADHOC senior staff member Mr. Ny Chakrya were detained on trumped-up charges. The Observatory reiterates its call for their immediate and unconditional release.

“The authorities’ treatment of the five human rights defenders as if they were dangerous criminals shows the extent to which Cambodia’s judiciary is in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s pocket. The international community must band together and demand the Cambodian Government immediately end the crackdown on its critics and civil society and #FreeThe5KH.”

FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos

On April 27, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s Investigating Judge Theam Chanpiseth extended the detention of Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, Ny Chakrya, and Ms. Lim Mony for another six-month period. The Observatory condemns the court’s decision as the latest act of judicial harassment against the five. Article 208 of Cambodia’s Criminal Procedure Code allows for up to 18 months in pre-trial detention.

“The one-year long pre-trial detention on fabricated charges of Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, Ny Chakrya and Lim Mony is outrageous and bears all the hallmarks of politically-motivated harassment of human rights defenders in Cambodia. It clearly illustrates the Government’s deliberate efforts to suppress any human rights work and dissenting voices in the country.”

OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock

On April 26, 2017, #FreeThe5KH were named finalists for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders as a recognition of their human rights work and reprisals they face because of their legitimate activities.

The Observatory recalls that their ongoing arbitrary detention is a blatant breach of Cambodia’s international human rights obligations.

On November 21, 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared that the detention of Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, Ny Chakrya, and Ms. Lim Mony was arbitrary. The WGAD said their deprivation of liberty was in contravention of Articles 7, 9, 10, 11, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 9, 10, 14, 22, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a State party. The WGAD called on the Cambodian authorities to immediately release the five human rights defenders and award them appropriate compensation.

Background information:

On April 27 and 28, 2016, Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, Try Chhuon, Ny Chakrya and Ms. Lim Mony were brought in for questioning by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU). Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) official Mr. Soen Sally, who was also summoned, did not appear before the ACU due to his immunity as a UN staff member.

On May 2, 2016, Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony were charged with “bribery of a witness” under Article 548 of the Criminal Code and detained. In addition, Messrs. Ny Chakrya and Soen Sally were charged with being “accomplices to bribery of a witness” (Articles 29 and 548 of the Criminal Code). Mr. Ny Chakrya was also detained.

In March 2016, Ms. Khom Chandaraty (aka Srey Mom) had requested the assistance of ADHOC, one of Cambodia’s leading human rights NGOs and FIDH member organisation, in connection with her interrogation by anti-terrorism police and a prosecutor about an alleged affair with deputy opposition leader Mr. Khem Sokha. ADHOC responded to Ms. Srey Mom’s request for legal and material assistance and provided a US$204 allowance to cover her food and transportation costs. This legitimate support, aimed at covering the basic expenses of a client, was subsequently construed by the ACU as bribery and corruption.

On June 13 and September 28, 2016 respectively, the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh and then the Phnom Penh Municipal Court denied bail to the five defenders.

On October 27, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court extended the detention of the five for up to another six months under the pretext that the defendants needed to remain available for any further interrogation and court procedures.

On November 11, 2016, the five defenders were denied bail for the second time by the Court of Appeal.

On November 28, 2016, the Court of Appeal upheld the extension of the pre-trial detention for another six months and refused to close the investigation. It argued that the issues of the extension of the detention and the continuation of the investigation were up to the discretion of the Investigating Judge of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

On November 30, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the June 13, 2016 decision by the Court of Appeal to refuse to release the five on bail. The Court based its decision on Article 205 of the Criminal Procedure Code, therefore upholding the continued applicability of both detention grounds, i.e. to maintain public order and to prevent collusion with accomplices, victims, and witnesses.

On February 27, 2017, the Supreme Court decided to sever the appeal of Mr. Ny Chakrya from that of the other four defenders. On March 13 and March 31, 2017 respectively, the Supreme Court upheld the November 28, 2016 decision by the Court of Appeal to extend the pre-trial detention of Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony on the one hand and of Mr. Ny Chakrya on the other hand for up to another six months.

Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, and Nay Vanda remain in detention in Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre 1 (‘CC1’), while Ms. Lim Mony is detained in Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre 2 (‘CC2’). Mr. Ny Chakrya is detained in Police Judiciaire (PJ) prison. All three jails are located in Phnom Penh. All of the detainees are being held alongside convicted criminals, contrary to Article 10(2)(a) of the ICCPR and Article 26 of Cambodia’s Law on Prisons.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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