January 21, 2017 - Two months after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) ruled that the ongoing detention of ADHOC staff members Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, and Yi Soksan, and NEC Deputy Secretary-General, Ny Chakrya is arbitrary, we, the undersigned civil society organizations, reiterate our call upon the Cambodian authorities to implement the decision of the WGAD and immediately release them. Nearly nine months after the five were first detained, Cambodia has taken no action to cease or remedy its unlawful treatment of the five, and remains in a continuing state of non-compliance with its binding legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Our organizations condemn in the strongest terms the failure of the Cambodian authorities to implement the recommendations of the WGAD.
On 21 November 2016, the WGAD declared the continued detention of the NEC official and four ADHOC staff members to be arbitrary, and in violation of their right to freedom of association and fair trial rights under international human rights law and Cambodian domestic law. In addition, the WGAD ruled that the five had been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders. The treatment of the five detainees is demonstrative of the Cambodian government’s manipulation of the judicial system to harass, intimidate and silence dissenting voices ahead of the upcoming commune and national elections.
The Cambodian government’s response to the damning decision of the WGAD has, up to this point, ranged from total non-engagement to outright dismissal. The WGAD first contacted the Cambodian government with regard to their findings in June 2016, without receiving a response. Since then, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin has stated that the decision of the WGAD is “not acceptable in a country with a rule of law.” He continued: “the fact is that the courts have investigated […] and found that the five people have bad intentions to commit a crime.” This blatant disregard for both the ruling of an international body and for the presumption of innocence - underscores the need for the international community to step up their efforts to call out violations of international human rights law in Cambodia, and reject the Cambodian government's cynical invocation of the “rule of law” to defend the harassment and imprisonment of its political opponents and civil society.
The treatment of the five detainees is demonstrative of the Cambodian government’s manipulation of the judicial system to harass, intimidate and silence dissenting voices ahead of upcoming elections.
While reports emerged in December 2016 suggesting that the release of all five human rights defenders was imminent, they remain in prison. Meanwhile, the five have essentially been reduced to little more than political bargaining chips in an inherently political case.
The Anti-Corruption Unit, whose jurisdiction over the case has been questioned by many observers, including the WGAD, first questioned the five from 27 to 29 April 2016. The WGAD found the pre-trial procedure to violate a number of fair trial rights and criticized the ongoing and legally unjustified pre-trial detention. All five human rights defenders have been unsuccessful in a series of bail applications, despite no supporting evidence justifying their continued detention under Cambodian law.
Based on the procedural and investigatory failings outlined in its decision, the WGAD recommended the immediate release of the five, payment of compensation as a remedy for the human rights violations they have suffered, the initiation of an investigation into the various violations of their rights, and legislative amendments with a view to bringing Cambodia’s laws and practices into compliance with its international obligations.
We, the undersigned CSOs, condemn the failure of the Cambodian authorities to adhere to the recommendations of the WGAD to date. We reiterate our call for Cambodia to comply with its obligations under international human rights law through the prompt implementation of the WAGD’s recommendations, including ensuring the immediate release of the five human rights defenders. Further, we urge the international community to use all available opportunities to advocate for the implementation of the decision in their interactions with the Cambodian government.
This joint statement is endorsed by:
1. Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT)
2. Boeung Kak Community
3. Boeung Trabek Community
4. Borei Keila Community
5. Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR)
6. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
7. Cambodian Independent Teacher Association (CITA)
8. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
9. Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
10. Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability (CISA)
11. Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodian (COMFREL)
12. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
13. Farmer Association for Peace and Development (FAPD)
14. Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC)
15. Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
16. Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economic (IDEA)
17. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
18. Kuoy Ethnic Community at Prame Commune, Preah Vihear Province
19. Land Community, Village I, Sangkat III, Preah Sihanouk Province
20. Land Conflict Community, Krous Village, Battambang province
21. Lor Peang Community, Kampong Chhnang Province
22. Ponlok Khmer (PKH)
23. SOS International Airport Community
24. Strey Khmer Organization (SKO)
25. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders