Cambodia: Refusal by the Supreme Court to grant bail to Ms. Yorm Bopha

28/03/2013
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) about the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant bail to Ms. Yorm Bopha, a pivotal figure in the protests against forced evictions of residents from the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh.

According to the information received, on March 27, 2013, the Supreme Court refused to grant bail to Ms. Yorm Bopha, due to the gravity of the charges for which she was convicted and because there was no evidence of health difficulties. After the decision, Ms. Yorm Bopha was returned to Prey Sar prison, where she has been detained since September 4, 2012 (See background information). She will now wait for her appeal to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about the Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to grant bail to Ms. Yorm Bopha, and now calls on the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh to expedite the process of appeal in her case and urgently set a date for the appeal hearing.

Furthermore, the Observatory reiterates its call on the Cambodian authorities for Ms. Yorm Bopha’s immediate and unconditional release and lift the charges pending against her, as her detention and judicial harassment seem merely to aim at obstructing her human rights activities.

The Observatory is also concerned that, on March 19, 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke about the Yorm Bopha case in a speech at the Peace Palace, and said that it was not a political case but that Ms. Bopha was in prison for committing a crime. This obviously impacts on Ms. Yorm Bopha’s fair trial rights and the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

Background information:

The families from the Boeung Kak Lake community have been battling forced evictions since 2007, when the Government leased their land to a company, Shukaku Inc, for development. In May 2012, after 15 members of the BKL community were violently and arbitrarily arrested, Ms. Yorm Bopha was at the forefront of the campaign for their release. She maintained a high profile presence at every demonstration, became a media spokesperson for the campaign, and did not shy away from publicly criticizing government officials. This new-found prominence brought with it the attention of the authorities - she was verbally threatened, harassed and intimidated.

On September 4, 2012, Ms. Yorm Bopha was detained for allegedly assaulting a person who was suspected of stealing. Ms. Bopha has denied the allegations.

On December 27, 2012, Phnom Penh’s Municipal Court sentenced Ms. Yorm Bopha to three years in prison for “intentional violence” under Article 218 of the Penal Code, on the basis of questionable allegations, and despite the fact that no credible evidence was presented at her trial. After the verdict, Ms. Bopha was returned to Prey Sar Prison’s Correctional Center 2 to serve her sentence.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Cambodian authorities urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Yorm Bopha, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Release Ms. Yorm Bopha immediately and unconditionally, since her detention is arbitrary as it only aims at obstructing her human rights activities and appears to be a result of exercising her right to freedoms of expression and association;

iii. Put an end to acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Yorm Bopha and all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- Article 12.1, which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”,
- and Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

v. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.

Addresses:

• Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 36 06 66 / 855 23 88 06 24 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh/ cppparty@gmail.com
• Mr. H.E. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice, No 240, Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: 023 364119. Email: moj@cambodia.gov.kh
• Mr. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 212708. Email: moi@interior.gov.kh
• Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 61 44 / + 855 23 21 69 39. Email: mfaicasean@bigpond.com.kh
• Ambassador Mr. Sun Suon, Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, Case postale 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74. Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh; cambodge@bluewin.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

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