Cambodia: Ongoing judicial harassment of land rights activist Ms. Tep Vanny

27/01/2017
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicial harassment of land rights activist Ms. Tep Vanny, who has been in pre-trial detentionsince August 2016 in relation to a protest in March 2013.

New information
KHM 002 / 0816 / OBS 077.1

Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
January 27, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

New information:

According to the information received, on January 25, 2017, Supreme Court Judge Kim Sathavy announced that Ms. Tep Vanny’s second appeal for bail had been denied, following a 45-minute hearing conducted by the Judge on January 18, 2017. Ms. Tep Vanny’s trial before Phnom Penh Municipal Court is due to be held on February 3, 2017. The Court of Appeals had previously denied Ms. Vanny’s request for bail on November 17, 2016.

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Tep Vanny is being detained on charges of “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” (Article 218 of the Criminal Code) for participating in a protest held by members of the Boeung Kak Lake community in March 2013 in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Phnom Penh. This case is just one of three cases which were re-activated in August 2016 while Ms. Tep Vanny was awaiting trial on separate charges stemming from her participation in a peaceful ‘Black Monday’ protest (see background information). If found guilty, Ms. Tep Vanny could face two to five years in prison.

The Observatory strongly condemns Ms. Tep Vanny’s ongoing arbitrary detention, which only aims at sanctioning her legitimate human rights activities, and calls upon the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release her. The Observatory further recalls that under Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure, pre-trial detention can only be ordered in “exceptional” circumstances.

Until all charges are dropped against Ms. Tep Vanny, the Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against her are conducted in full compliance with her right to a fair trial, as provided for under international law.

Background information:

On August 15, 2016,Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea, another Boeung Kak Lake activist, were arrested while participating in a peaceful protest held by the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh to mark the 15th week of the ‘Black Monday’ campaign. The campaign involves weekly peaceful protests, held on Mondays, where participants wear black clothing to call for the release of human rights defenders Messrs. Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda, Ny Chakrya and Ms. Lim Mony, as well as for justice for the murder of prominent political analyst and ‘Black Monday’ supporter Kem Ley[1].

Following their arrest, Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Bov Sophea were initially detained at the Daun Penh district police station before being sent to pre-trial detention in Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre 2 (CC2) prison in Phnom Penh on August 17.

On August 17, 2016, both were charged with “incitement” under Article 495 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code, after a day of interrogation at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. They were immediately sent to trial, which was adjourned until August 22.

On August 22, following a 90-minute trial and after just 18 minutes of deliberation, presiding Judge Pech Vicheator unexpectedly changed the charge to “insult of a public official” (Article 502 of the Criminal Code) during the delivery of his verdict. After presenting a defence against the original charge of incitement, the defendants’ lawyers were given no opportunity to prepare a defence against the new charge. The two activists were convicted of “insulting a public official” and sentenced to six days in prison.

While Ms. Bov Sophea was released on the evening of August 22 after having serving six days in detention, Ms. Tep Vanny was transported to CC2 prison, due to an additional charge against her. On August 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had charged her with “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances”. The charge stemmed from Ms. Tep Vanny’s participation in a protest near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in March 2013 to call for the release of then-jailed activist Ms. Yorm Bopha[2]. The protest turned violent when State security forces beat 10 of the activists and pushed others into police trucks.

On September 19, 2016, Presiding Judge Ly Sokleng sentenced Ms. Tep Vanny and three other Boeung Kak Lake community members, Ms. Bo Chhorvy, Ms. Kong Chantha, and Ms. Heng Mom, to six months’ imprisonment after a three-hour hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The four land rights activists were found guilty of “obstruction of a public official with aggravating circumstances” and “insult” relating to a November 2011 protestthat turned violent when police and security guards were sent in to disperse demonstrators[3]. Ms. Tep Vanny was sent back to pre-trial detention in CC2 prison due to her separate charges stemming from her participation in the 2013 protest. Ms. Bo Chhorvy, Ms. Kong Chantha, and Ms. Heng Mom, who was tried in absentia, were not arrested as their sentence will not be enforced until all appeals are exhausted.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cambodia asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Tep Vanny, as well as of Messrs.Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Ny Chakrya,Ms. Lim Mony, Ms. Bo Chhorvy, Ms. Kong Chantha, and Ms. Heng Mom, and of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Tep Vanny and Ms. Lim Mony, Messrs.Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Ny Chakryaas their arbitrary detention is merely aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - againstMs. Tep Vanny, Ms. Bov Sophea, Ms. Bo Chhorvy, Ms. Kong Chantha, Ms. Heng Mom, Ms. Lim Mony andMessrs.Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Ny Chakrya,as well as against all human rights defenders in Cambodia so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.

Addresses:

· Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 360666 / 855 23 880624 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh/ cppparty@gmail.com
· Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 212708
· Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 364 119
· Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 216 144 / 855 23 216 141, Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh
· Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 882 065, Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh/ info@pressocm.gov.kh
· Mr. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, Fax: +855 12 81 37 81 / +855 23 21 11 62 or +855 23 88 10 45 (c/o Council of Ministers)
· Mr. Bun Hun, President of the Cambodian Bar Association, Fax: +855 23 864 076, Email: info@bakc.org.kh
· Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74, Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh

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

***
Geneva-Paris, January 27, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

— 

[1] Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh is one of the co-implementing partners of the campaign #FreeThe5KH, launched on August 8, 2016, by civil society groups in support of the five human rights defenders who are currently in pre-trial detention and under judicial investigation for allegations of bribery, and who have now spent over 100 days in prison. For more information, see www.freethe5kh.net as well as Joint Press Releases,issued on July 13, 2016 and January 21, 2017.

[2] For more information, see Observatory Press Release, issued on September 4, 2013.

[3] During the 2011 protest, the activists were demanding that 94 Boeung Kak Lake families be included in a land plot that Prime Minister Hun Sen had promised to set aside for displaced members of the community.Violence broke out when police blocked about 100 women from walking towards Monivong Boulevard.

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