Judicial proceedings - KHM 001 / 0106 / OBS 001.4

15/02/2006
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 Centre of Human Rights (CCHR) that criminal complaints against Mr. Kem Sokha, CCHR President, Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, CCHR Deputy Director and Producer of the CCHR Voice of Democracy radio programme, and Mr. Yeng Virak, Director of the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), were withdrawn.

According to the information received, on 3 February 2006, government lawyers officially withdrew criminal complaints against Messrs. Kem Sokha, Pa Nguon Teang and Yeng Virak. Prime Minister Hun Sen had requested that lawyers withdraw the government complaints against both men after they wrote letters thanking the Prime Minister for securing their release on bail from prison. The complaints against Mr. Yeng Virak were also withdrawn after they all wrote letters to the Prime Minister Hun Sen, thanking him for their release and withdrawing their earlier comments.

However, under the so-called UNTAC Law adopted in 1992 (Provisions relating to the Judiciary and Criminal Law and Procedure Applicable in Cambodia during the Transitional Period), the withdrawal of a criminal defamation complaint does not mean that the charges are dropped. The judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced that he would continue to investigate the case against Mr. Kem Sokha, Mr. Pa Nguon Teang and Mr. Yeng Virak. The Prime Minister said publicly that these persons should refrain from acting in an “arrogant” way.

Therefore, a Damocles Sword remains hanged above Mr. Kem Sokha, Mr. Pa Nguon Teang and Mr. Yeng Virak. Under the UNTAC Law, “any accused person, whether or not in detention, must be judged no later than six months after arrest” (Article 21).

Background Information:

On December 10, 2005, a group of 63 NGOs, including CCHR and CLEC, organised a celebration for the International Human Rights Day with a gathering including booth displays, where participating NGOs displayed their activities and products. Thousands of people participated in the event, which was guarded by police officers and closely monitored by plain-clothes police officers. One of the booths was occupied by CCHR. It was decorated with old banners, which were used in 2003 and had slogans printed in Khmer script: “My vote is my life” and “I don’t vote for any party that sows fear to the people”.

The banners also had handwritings on them, some of which allegedly criticised the policies of Cambodian Prime Minister Mr. Hun Sen. At around 11:00 a.m., CCHR staff members manning the booth were informed by the steering committee that the police authorities had complained about the banners displayed at the stall. Upon receiving this information, CCHR staff members decided to remove the banners.

On December, 31, 2005, Mr. Yeng Virak, member of the organising committee of the International Human Rights Day celebration, was arrested in relation to his role in this celebration on December 10, 2005. Mr. Kem Sokha and Mr. Pa Nguon Teang were respectively arrested on December 31, 2005 and January 4, 2006, also in connection with banners displayed at the International Human Rights Day event. The three men were all charged with defamation and detained at the Prey Sar prison near Phnom Penh.

On January 11, 2006, Mr. Yeng Virak was released on bail.

On January 17, 2006, Mr. Kem Sokha and Mr. Pa Nguon Teang were released on bail as well.

Actions requested:

i. Drop the charges against Mr. Pa Nguon Teang, Mr. Kem Sokha and Mr. Yeng Virak, and put an end to all acts of harassment against them as well as all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, article 6(b), which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others (...) to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”, and its article 8(2), which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to submit to governmental bodies and agencies and organisations concerned with public affairs criticism and proposals for improving their functioning and to draw attention to any aspect of their work that may hinder or impede the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

iii. 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. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Fax: + 855 23 88 06 24, Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh

- Mr. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 27 08

- Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, cnr rue 204, Phnom Penh
Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 61 44 / + 855 23 21 61 42

- Mr. Om Yentieng, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, Office of the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 12 81 37 81 / +855 23 21 11 62 or +855 23 88 10 45 (c/o Council of Ministers)

- Ambassador Mr. Vun Chheang, 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

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

***

Geneva-Paris, February 15, 2006

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.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Email : Appeals@fidh.omct.org
Tel et fax FIDH : + 33 1 43 55 55 05 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel et fax OMCT : +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

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