Joint Statement: 365 Days Too Many – Release Yorm Bopha

Joint Statement
Sep. 3, 2013

September 4, 2013 marks one year since community representative Yorm Bopha was incarcerated as a result of her land rights activism. Despite a wholesale lack of credible evidence, Bopha was convicted of committing intentional violence with aggravating circumstances in late December 2012, and given a three-year sentence. On July 14, 2013 the Appeal Court upheld the conviction, but suspended one year of the sentence. Bopha subsequently filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, which to date has failed to process her appeal and set a date for the hearing.

Throughout, Bopha has maintained her innocence. She has been declared an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, and there is ample evidence that the charges were brought in retaliation for her non-violent activism. Prior to her arrest, she had been threatened, harassed and intimidated by the police, who told her that she was “on the blacklist,” and would be “in trouble soon”. The opportunity to make good on these threats presented itself when she and her husband happened on a fight in a local drink shop one evening. Soon thereafter, Bopha and her husband were arrested for purportedly masterminding that assault. Her husband, tellingly, was soon released.

At no point has the prosecution presented any credible evidence or witnesses proving Bopha committed – or plotted – any violent acts with respect to the alleged assault in the drink shop. On the contrary, a neighbor reliably corroborated both Bopha and her husband’s consistent testimony regarding their actions that evening. In order to hear the charges against Bopha in the absence of any direct evidence, both the Municipal and Appeal Courts relied primarily on the purported victims’ accusations – testimony which was not only dramatically contradictory in each separate phase of the proceedings, but which is also inherently unreliable and further tainted by their roles as civil parties. Indeed, under Cambodia’s own Code of Criminal Procedure, civil parties are barred from being witnesses at all. Not one witness or piece of evidence has ever been presented that relates to any premeditation or plotting by Bopha.

“Bopha’s continued incarceration is an attempt to intimidate other human rights defenders and discourage them from taking action,” said Eang Vuthy, Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia. “Using the judiciary in this way to silence those calling for freedom, justice, and equality is in violation of the fundamental and constitutional rights of all Cambodians. And as recent events show, it does not work.”

“There is no reason for the Supreme Court not to process Bopha’s case and set a date for her hearing,” said Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator at Sahmakum Teang Tnaut. “This deliberate tarrying serves solely to magnify the injustice of the situation.”

“Not only is Bopha’s incarceration unjust, it is also detrimental to her family,” said Vun Samphurs, President of the Cambodian Domestic Workers’ Network. “Bopha has a 9-year old son who needs his mother, and an elderly husband unable to work due to injuries sustained at the hands of the police whilst calling for her release.”

The undersigned civil society groups call on the Supreme Court to hear Bopha’s case without delay, and overturn her spurious conviction.

Action for Environment and Community (AEC)
Association of Women for Freedom and Development
Cambodian Committee of Women (CAMBOW)
Cambodian Domestic Worker Network (CDWN)
Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)
Cambodia’s Independent Civil-servants Association (CICA)
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
The Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW)
Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)
Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
Community Peace Building Network (CPN)
Equitable Cambodia (EC)
Farmer Development Association (FDA)
Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
Messenger Band
People’s Action for Change (PAC)
Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
Social Action for Change (SAC)
Strey Khmer Organisation
Women’s Network for Unity (WNU)
Workers’ Information Centre (WIC)


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