At least 27 human rights defenders and political activists remain incarcerated on politically motivated charges, including 19 members and supporters of the political opposition. Five human rights defenders – Lim Mony, Nay Vanda, Ny Chakrya, Ny Sokha and Yi Soksan – have been arbitrarily detained on trumped-up charges for 153 days. Boeung Kak Lake community representative Tep Vanny has also been held arbitrarily for six weeks.
The murder of prominent political analyst Kem Ley on 10 July 2016 has had a chilling effect on civil society. Several high-profile activists and human rights defenders have recently fled the country and sought asylum overseas. NGOs inside the country work under mounting pressure.
The government has drafted and, in some cases already enacted, laws that impose serious restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The enacted laws were approved by the ruling party-dominated National Assembly without adequate consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and are inconsistent with Cambodia’s international human rights obligations.
Finally, the judiciary lacks independence from the executive branch. Courts are routinely used to legitimize the repression of members of the political opposition, activists, and human rights defenders. Alarmingly, 2016 has also witnessed a sharp increase in partisan, and at times threatening, speeches by military commanding officers directed towards political dissidents, peaceful campaigners and the opposition party.
We demand that the Cambodian authorities immediately and unconditionally release all those imprisoned on grounds that have all the hallmarks of being politically motivated. We also urge the authorities to carry out an effective, independent, impartial, transparent and thorough investigation into the murder of Kem Ley and to hold all those responsible for this crime accountable.
In the lead-up to the 2017 local elections and the 2018 general election, Cambodia is at a critical juncture. It is vital for the Human Rights Council to closely monitor the human rights situation and to support and protect the country’s vibrant civil society.