Cambodia: Judicial harassment of prominent defenders Pa Nguon Teang, Venerable But Buntenh and Moeun Tola

30/01/2018
Urgent Appeal

KHM 001 / 0118 / OBS 013
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
January 30, 2018

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 information:

The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment of three prominent human rights defenders in Cambodia, Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, Venerable But Buntenh, Executive Director of the Buddhism for Peace Organization, and Mr. Moeun Tola, Executive Director of the Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL).

According to the information received, on January 4, 2018, Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Venerable But Buntenh and Mr. Moeun Tola were charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with “breach of trust” under Articles 391 and 392 of the Criminal Code of Cambodia, for allegedly misappropriating funds in relation to the funeral of Dr. Kem Ley, a prominent activist and political analyst who was murdered on July 10, 2016 [1].

The charges follow a complaint filed on September 8, 2017 by Cambodian Youth Party leader, Mr. Pich Sros, who accused the three human rights defenders of embezzling donations as members of Dr. Kem Ley’s funeral committee. If convicted, the defenders face between six months and three years in prison and a fine of up to six million Riel (about 1,247 Euros).

Following Dr. Kem Ley’s death, a funeral committee was formed, which included Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Venerable But Buntenh and Mr. Moeun Tola among its members. The committee was responsible for logistical support, including organizing the funeral procession and related events. The three human rights defenders insist that their role did not involve the management of donations or any other funds. Further, members of Dr. Kem Ley’s family have publicly discredited the current lawsuit, calling it “baseless”, and never filed a complaint regarding the handling of donated funds.

The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Venerable But Buntenh and Mr. Moeun Tola, and considers the charges against them as being politically motivated, since they clearly aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and further silencing Cambodian civil society and human rights defenders in general. The Observatory calls on the Cambodian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against them and all human rights defenders in Cambodia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Cambodian authorities asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Venerable But Buntenh, and Mr. Moeun Tola, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Venerable But Buntenh, Mr. Moeun Tola and all human rights defenders in the country so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iii. 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;

iv. 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 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, January 30, 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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