The Observatory: Urgent Appeal for Bopha and Sakmony

URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY

New information
KHM 006 / 1212 / OBS 119
Judicial harassment / Arbitrary detention
Cambodia
December 21, 2012

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 inCambodia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) of the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms.Tim Sakmony, two prominent land housing rights defenders.

According to the information received, on December 26, 2012 at 2 pm, Phnom Penh Municipal Court will open the trial against Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony, for “assaulting a suspected thief” and making a “false declaration” to obtain accommodation for her disabled son. They face between six months and five years in jail and a fine between 250 to 2,500 US dollars if found guilty.

The Observatory recalls that both were arrested in early September 2012 and have been held in pre-trial detention since then (See background information).

The Observatory fears that the authorities have levelled baseless charges against them because of their peaceful struggle for land and housing rights. Therefore, it reiterates its demand on the Cambodian authorities for their immediate and unconditional release and the lift of pending charges, as their detention and judicial harassment seem to merely aim at obstructing their human rights activities and appear to be a result of them exercising their right to freedoms of expression and association.

Background information[1]:

The families from the Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) 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, 29, 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, 64, a pivotal figure in the protests against forced evictions of residents from the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh, was detained for allegedly assaulting a person who was suspected of stealing. Ms. Bopha has denied the allegations, saying she was not even present at the scene. She is currently being held in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh, awaiting judicial investigation for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” under Article 218 of the Penal Code.

In a separate case, Ms. Tim Sakmony, a leader in protests against forced evictions from Borei Keila, another area of Phnom Penh was arrested on September 5, 2012. The arrest came after the owner of Borei Keila developer Phanimex filed a complaint alleging that Ms. Sakmony made a “false declaration” in a request for the Phanimex Company to compensate her disabled son for having failed to provide him with an apartment after his eviction from Borei Keila in January 2012. Phaminex was originally granted land in Borei Keila conditional upon the construction of ten apartment buildings to rehouse residents, but has only built eight buildings. Ms. Sakmony is also being held in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison, pending judicial investigation for making a “false declaration to a public body for the purpose of obtaining an allowance, a payment or any unlawful advantage” under Article 633 of the Penal Code.

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 and Ms. Tim Sakmony, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Release Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at obstructing their human rights activities and appears to be a result of exercising their 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 Ms. Tim Sakmony 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:
– its 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 its 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 the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, December 21, 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

[1] See Observatory Press Release issued on September 13 and November 16, 2012.

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