The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the sentencing of Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea, two Boeung Kak Lake activists, in relation to their participation in a peaceful protest to call for the release of five imprisoned human rights defenders.
According to the information received, on August 22, 2016, Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea were convicted of “insulting a public official” and sentenced to six days in prison.
The two activists were arrested on August 15, 2016, while participating in a peaceful vigil, which was held by the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh to mark the 15th week of the ‘Black Monday’ campaign. The campaign involves weekly peaceful protests, held on Mondays, where participants wear black clothing to call for the release of human rights defenders Mr. Ny Sokha, Mr. Yi Soksan, Mr. Nay Vanda, Ms. Lim Mony, and Mr. Ny Chakrya, as well as for justice for the recent murder of prominent political analyst and ‘Black Monday’ supporter Kem Ley . Spanish researcher Ms. Marga Bujosa Segado, who was also taking part in the ‘Black Monday’ demonstration, was also arrested and subsequently deported from Cambodia on August 17, for allegedly not possessing a work permit.
Following their arrest, Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea were initially detained at the Daun Penh district police station before being sent to pre-trial detention in Prey Sar’s CC2 prison in Phnom Penh on August 17.
On August 17, 2016, Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea were charged with “incitement” under Article 495 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code, after a day of interrogation at Phnom Penh’s Municipal Court. The two were immediately sent to trial, which was adjourned until August 22.
On August 22, following a 90-minute trial and after just 18 minutes of deliberation, presiding Judge Pech Vicheator unexpectedly changed the charge to “insult of a public official” (Article 502 of the Criminal Code) during the delivery of his verdict. After presenting a defence against the original charge of incitement, the defendants’ lawyers were given no opportunity to prepare a defence against the new charge.
While Ms. Bov Sophea was released on the evening of August 22 after serving six days in detention, Ms. Tep Vanny was transported to Prey Sar’s CC2 prison, due to an additional charge against her. On August 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged her with “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” (Article 218 of the Criminal Code). The charge stemmed from Ms. Tep Vanny’s participation in a protest near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in 2013 to call for the release of then-jailed activist Ms. Yorm Bopha . The protest ended in one of the most violent crackdowns against the community, leaving five citizens injured, including some with broken bones. If found guilty, Ms. Tep Vanny could face from two to five years in prison.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arrest and sentencing of Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea, as well as Ms. Tep Vanny’s ongoing arbitrary detention, which only aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory further recalls that under Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure, pre-trial detention can only be ordered in “exceptional” circumstances.
The Observatory calls upon the Cambodian authorities to put an end to their harassment and to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Tep Vanny.
Until all charges are dropped against Ms. Tep Vanny, the Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against her are conducted in full compliance with her right to a fair trial, as provided for under international law.
Finally, the Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to abide by the joint call issued on May 12, 2016, by four United Nations Special Rapporteurs “to stop targeting civil society, human rights defenders (…) and to take effective measures to protect civil society and respect fundamental freedoms in the country” .
Please write to the authorities of Cambodia asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Tep Vanny, as well as of Messrs. Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Ny Chakrya, Ms. Lim Mony, and all human rights defenders in Cambodia;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Lim Mony, Messrs. Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Ny Chakrya as their arbitrary detention is merely aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Ms. Tep Vanny, Ms. Bov Sophea, Ms. Lim Mony and Messrs. Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Ny Chakrya, as well as against 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. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.
• Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 360666 / 855 23 880624 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
• 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: email@example.com
• Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 882 065, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
• 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. Bun Hun, President of the Cambodian Bar Association, Fax: +855 23 864 076, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• 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: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.