Cambodia and the community of human rights defenders lose a great activist – A Tribute to Chan Soveth

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FIDH is deeply saddened by the death, on International Human Rights Day 2014, of Chan Soveth, a friend and prominent Cambodian human rights defender. A senior investigator at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC, a member organization of FIDH), Soveth was a great man, a unanimously respected human rights activist, and an inspiration to many Cambodians, for whom he was an example of courage and justice.

Chan Soveth was a voice for the voiceless. For decades, he selflessly worked for victims of human rights violations and abuses, in particular the poor and those living in remote areas, which ADHOC managed to reach out to, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. Soveth’s death is a great loss for his family, his colleagues and Cambodia’s human rights community, but the heritage of courage and commitment he left will last for generations, he added.

Chan Soveth, Credit : CLEC

On many occasions, Soveth’s human rights work and personal commitment had caused him to be subjected to threats, intimidation and reprisals in the form of judicial harassment. In 2012, he had been forced to stay outside his country for several months. Upon his return, despite receiving another summon to appear before Cambodia’s flawed judicial system, and thus, despite the risk of being arbitrarily detained, he had decided to stay in Cambodia, amongst his fellow countrymen.

The crowd that cheered him on 24 December 2012, as he walked out, as a free man, of the Phnom Penh Municipal Tribunal, was an allegory of the power of a just cause in front of brute force and arbitrariness.

Soveth relentlessly fought against human rights violations – from land grabbing and violations of people’s and communities’ rights to food, water or housing, to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, and violations of the rights to free expression and free assembly. His ultimate aim was to see a better Cambodia, where human rights, rule of law and democracy will be upheld, where everyone will be free from fear and want, and where no one will enjoy impunity.

He was not only a great investigator, trainer and human rights advocate, but also an inspiration to many. He was always eager to improve his impressive human rights and professional skills and to celebrate successes.

FIDH and its 178 member organizations are deeply saddened by the death of Chan Soveth and present their sincerest condolences to his family, his wife and their children, and to everyone who worked with him or for whom he was an inspiration. We think, in particular, of ADHOC President Thun Saray, his friends and colleagues, and we express our profound solidarity with them.

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