Cambodia: Withdrawal of charges against Mr. Soum Chankea

05/06/2012
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), 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 Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) of the withdrawal of the charges faced by Mr. Soum Chankea, its Provincial Coordinator in Banteay Meanchey province.

According to the information received, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Provincial Court in Sisophon decided to drop, on May 8, all the charges brought against Mr. Chankea. The latter was notified of the decision by letter at the end of May.

While the Observatory welcomes this positive development, it notes that the plaintiff, Mr. Oum Socheath, may still lodge an appeal against this decision.

Background information:

On November 4 and 9, 2011 respectively, a woman filed complaints of sexual harassment and assault against Mr. Oum Socheath, Head of the Banteay Meanchey branch of the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and Coordinator of the UNDP-CMAC mine clearance programme, and Mr. Thong Piseth, also known as Mr. Veth, a real estate and construction business man.

As the authorities allegedly took no action to investigate the woman’s allegations, Mr. Soum Chankea, as ADHOC Provincial Coordinator, intervened several times on her behalf and urged the police and the Prosecutor to investigate the case. According to information gathered by ADHOC, Messrs. Oum Socheath and Thong Piseth were under the protection of a businessman whose brother is a high-ranking government official. On February 22, 2012, local media reports revealed that Hun San, the brother of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, signed a letter to the prosecutor in Sisophon asking him not to investigate the complaints against Oum Socheath.

On February 9, 2012, Mr. Soum Chankea was summoned to appear on February 20, 2012 before the Prosecutor’s Office in Sisophon, capital of Banteay Meanchey province, following a complaint lodged by Mr. Oum Socheath in which he accused ADHOC Coordinator of forcing the victim to file a complaint against the two men.

If the Prosecutor had then decided to bring charges against Mr. Soum Chankea, they could have included the charge of “slanderous denunciation”, an offence punishable by up to one year in prison and up to two million riels (380 Euros) fine under Article 311 of the Criminal Code.


Actions requested:

Please write to the Cambodian authorities and ask them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Soum Chankea;

ii. Put an end to acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against him as well as against all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, and 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”,

- 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”.

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international 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

· 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, 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 the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, June 5, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

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