CAMBODIA: #FreeThe5KH released after more than a year in pre-trial detention

Urgent Appeal

Geneva-Paris, June 30, 2017 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an OMCT-FIDH partnership) welcomes the long-awaited release yesterday evening of the five human rights defenders “#FreeThe5KH”, after more than a year in arbitrary pre-trial detention. The Observatory calls for the Cambodian authorities to drop all charges against the five and end all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in Cambodia.

On June 29, 2017, Investigating Judge Theam Chan Piseth ordered the release on bail of Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and former ADHOC senior staff member Mr. Ny Chakrya. Between 7 and 8.30 pm, they were all released from Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar and Police Judiciaire prisons, where they languished for 427 days in pre-trial detention on trumped-up charges. The decision came after the Judge closed the investigation and sent the case to trial on a date yet to be set.

We welcome the release of the five, which comes as a great relief and joy for the human rights community in Cambodia. Yet it is only a first and long overdue step to restore the rule of law in the country. We now urge the authorities to put an end to the persecution of the five and to the ongoing proceedings against them”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

#FreeThe5KH were arrested in April 2016 on trumped-up charges of bribery or being accomplices to bribery of a witness (Articles 29 and 548 of the Criminal Code). Their pre-trial detention was twice extended for two six-month periods, in October 2016 and April 2017.

While in detention, Messrs. Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, and Yi Soksan experienced a serious deterioration in their health, which was exacerbated by the denial of regular medical check-ups by medical staff, as well as woeful conditions inside the prison.

On November 21, 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the detention of Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, Ny Chakrya, and Ms. Lim Mony was arbitrary and called on the Cambodian authorities to immediately release the five and award them appropriate compensation. On April 26, 2017, #FreeThe5KH were named finalists for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in recognition of their human rights work and reprisals they face because of their legitimate activities.

The five should have never been detained and the fact that a trial is hanging over their heads shows that there is still a long way to go before human rights defenders can operate without fear of reprisal by the Government”, said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

The Observatory calls upon the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Cambodia, including land rights activist Ms. Tep Vanny, who remains detained since August 15, 2016 for protesting for the five’s release.

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 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.

For more information, please contact:
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 1 43 55 14 12

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