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Aug-16-2012 14:46printcomments

Cambodia: Stop Any Judicial Actions Against Mr. Chan Soveth

Cambodia seeks to jail a Human Rights Defender, our Human Rights Ambassador contacts the government representative in UN.

Chan Soveth (Photo: Channa, RFI)
Chan Soveth (Photo: Channa, RFI)

(SALEM) - After its long history of Genocide and years of self-destruction, Cambodia's political leaders must join the modern world and adhere to international laws that protect human beings from heinous political persecution.

It seems more than bleak when a nation's Human Rights Defenders become the target of aggressive, negative government interest. Mr. Chan Soveth, who is the Senior Investigator and Deputy Head of the Monitoring Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), has been cited to appear in court. He faces a charge of “providing assistance to the perpetrator” of a “crime” under Article 544 of the Cambodian Criminal Code. As a result of this vague, undefined allegation, this man who dedicates his life to helping his fellow Cambodians, now faces an imprisonment sentence of one to three years and a fine of two million to six million Riels.

Perhaps little more can be expected by a country whose government is staffed in part by former Khmer Rouge Genocide war criminals. In his letter to Chemin de Taverney in Switzerland, with the Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, our Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes, expresses the importance of world government speaking out and pressuring Cambodia to raise the bar in legal terms, particularly in this case regarding Mr. Chan Soveth.


Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva,
Chemin de Taverney
Case postale 213,
1218 Grand-Saconnex,
Switzerland,
Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74.

Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh; cambodge@bluewin.ch

Re: Cambodia: stop any judicial actions against Mr. Chan Soveth

Dear Ambassador Mr. Sun Suon,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.

I have been informed by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), regarding the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr.Chan Soveth.

I have been informed by reliable sources of a citation to appear in court issued against Mr. Chan Soveth, Senior Investigator and Deputy Head of the Monitoring Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC).

According to the information received, on August 9, 2012, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a citation summoning Mr. Soveth to appear before an investigating judge on August 24, 2012.

Mr. Soveth was charged with “providing assistance to the perpetrator” of a “crime” under Article 544 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, and faces an imprisonment sentence of one to three years and a fine of two million to six million Riels.

Exact details behind this charge have not yet been disclosed by the government, but they appear to be connected to a long-standing land dispute in Kratie province. On May 16, 2012, the government sent in hundreds of armed security personnel, supported by helicopters, to evict villagers who were living in an area in Kratie province marked for development by a Russian company. During the eviction, Ms. Heng Chantha, a 14-year-old girl, was shot dead. Government officials later justified the operation by claiming the villagers, some of whom are members of the Independent Democrats Association, were part of a secession movement. ADHOC released a statement on May 17 and condemned the killing of the young girl[1][1]. It is believed that the charges against Mr. Soveth are linked to his sheltering of a land activist involved in this issue. The court citation was signed on August 9, 2012, just eight days after Prime Minister Hun Sen made accusatory references in a nationally televised speech to an unnamed “human rights worker” for his role in providing assistance to villagers in relation to this land dispute.

The Observatory recalls that ADHOC has been repeatedly harassed by the government in recent years. In July 2012, armed police officers raided a training session on land rights organised jointly by ADHOC and the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) in Rattanakiri province[2][2]. Moreover, Mr. Soum Chankea, ADHOC’s Provincial Coordinator in Banteay Meanchey province, faced spurious charges of defamation, which the court eventually dropped in June 2012. Furthermore, in January 2011, Mr. Sam Chankea, ADHOC’s coordinator in Kampong Chhnang province, was convicted of defamation, in connection to a critical statement he made about land-grabbing by a Cambodian company during an interview with Radio Free Asia in December 2009[3][3].

On July 2012, independent radio station owner Mr. Mam Sonando was arrested and is currently in pre-trial detention in Phnom Penh, facing charges of 'secession' in relation to the same land dispute in Kratie[4][4]. The government has yet to present any credible evidence substantiating its claims that a secessionist movement exists in Kratie.

Along with Observatory, I express my deepest concern about these acts of judicial harassment of Mr. Chan Soveth, since they seem to merely aim at hindering his human rights activities, in a context of continued governmental harassment against human rights defenders, including against other ADHOC members. I therefore call upon the Cambodian authorities to stop any judicial actions against Mr. Chan Soveth aimed at curbing his legitimate human rights work and to put an end to all acts of harassment against him as well as against all human rights defenders in Cambodia.

I urge to the Cambodian authorities:

I. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Chan Soveth as well as against all human rights defenders and their organisations in Cambodia;

II. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders and their organisations in Cambodia;

III. Conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, and in particular:

- 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”,

- and 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”.

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Cambodia.

Sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com
www.williamgomes.org

Donate to Support William's Human Rights Stories; donate through PayPal

Donate to: williamgomes.org@gmail.com

______________________________

Salem-News.com Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.

He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency Asianews.it from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.

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