Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Report on the human rights impact of economic and other land concessions in Cambodia

25 September 2012 - The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, has released an assessment report on the human rights impact of economic and other land concessions in Cambodia. The report is an addendum to the Special Report's report at the 21st regular session of the Human Rights Council.  

Introduction

 1. The present report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 18/25, describes the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia from July 2011 to June 2012.

2. The OHCHR presence in Cambodia, mandated by the Commission on Human Rights in its resolution 1993/6, continued to provide assistance to the Government and to the people of Cambodia in promoting and respecting human rights. During the period under review, the OHCHR programme of cooperation with the Government, civil society and the development community continued to focus on five areas: support for prison reform; the protection of fundamental freedoms and the development of civil society; the protection of rights relating to land and housing; support for legal and judicial reform; and promoting the legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.


3. In accordance with its mandate, OHCHR continued to work with Government partners in a spirit of constructive dialogue and mutual respect. As the activities reflected in the present report demonstrate, OHCHR has proven to be a sound source of technical expertise on human rights issues that continue to pose some of the most difficult challenges faced by Cambodia. As much was further evidenced by the Government’s decision to renew for two years, from 1 January 2012, its memorandum of understanding governing the provision of technical assistance by OHCHR. While the Office has favoured bilateral discussions with Government counterparts when raising difficult human right issues, in particular individual cases of human rights violations, on occasion it has raised concern publicly in accordance with the global mandate given to the High Commissioner.


4. The reporting period was notable for a number of reasons, one being the fact that cooperation between the Government and OHCHR has improved in a number of areas since the previous reporting period. This development is welcomed by OHCHR. Much of the cooperation outlined in the present report focuses on bridging the human rights knowledge and capacity gaps in government. The effectiveness of cooperation must, as ever, be judged in terms of its impact on the enjoyment of human rights by all in Cambodia.


5. The Office increased its individual case work during the reporting period, undertaking over 150 individual visits to investigate allegations of human rights violations in all provinces of the country. This work confirmed a number worrying trends, including:


(a) The persistence of a large number of disputes linked to land, and increasing violence on the part of communities protecting their land;


(b) Continuing impunity for serious human rights violations, and rapid arbitrary convictions of human rights defenders;


(c) A marked increase in the use of live ammunition by security forces against people seeking to claim their rights (in the first five months of 2012, OHCHR investigated five instances of injuries caused by live ammunition, two of which resulted in deaths: Chut Wutty, an environmentalist activist, in Koh Kong Province; and Heng Chantha, a 14-year old girl, in Kratie province).


6. Cambodia assumed the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 1 January 2012 and, with it, the responsibility for guiding the elaboration of an ASEAN human rights declaration. This resulted in increased national and international attention to human rights issues in the country, particularly during major ASEAN meetings held in Cambodia. Cambodia entered a two-year election period, with commune elections held in June 2012 and national elections scheduled for mid-2013. Although the commune elections were largely free of violence, credible allegations of irregularities were raised.


To download the report, click here. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-63-Add1_en.pdf

Friday, September 14, 2012

THE MAM SONANDO CASE EXPLAINED



On Sunday morning, July 15, 2012, independent Beehive Radio station owner and director Mam Sonando was arrested at his radio station. Mr. Sonando holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, and is 70 years old. He is also the founder and president of the Association of Democrats, a registered NGO that aims to promote human rights and democracy in Cambodia particularly through securing Cambodian ID cards to facilitate increased ease in voting. After spending a night in police custody, Mr. Sonando was brought before Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sem Sakola for questioning. By about noon on July 16, Sonando was charged under six articles of Cambodia’s Penal Code. He stands accused of crimes ranging from leading an insurrectionary movement and incitement to take up arms against the state, to obstruction of public officials. If convicted on all counts, he faces seven to thirty years in prison.

The government claims that the charges against Mr. Sonando are related to an alleged secession attempt by villagers in Kratie province. Those accused of attempted secession have been involved in an ongoing and escalating land dispute with a well-connected private company in Chhlong district’s Kampong Domrey commune. On May 16, 2012, while Sonando was out of the country, hundreds of soldiers, military police and local police stormed the disputed land with the aid of a helicopter. Hundreds of families were kicked off the land. During the operation, a 14-year-old girl was killed. Authorities blocked access to the site by journalists, NGOs and the United Nations on the day of the eviction and, with the exception of a chaperoned visit by some UN officials, the lock down continued for several days afterwards.


Many have criticized the “secession movement” justification for the involvement of soldiers on May 16th. None of the armed forces were injured, and there has still been no evidence presented that the residents of the area had armed themselves against the authorities. Nor is there any evidence that the residents had the intent, the plans, or the means to attempt to secede from Cambodia. And aside from the fact that some residents had previously joined the Association of Democrats, there is no indication that any statements by the NGO or reports broadcast on Beehive Radio mentioned attempted secession efforts in Cambodia. International and Cambodian NGOs and journalist associations have since stated that the charges against Sonando are more likely linked to Beehive Radio’s long history of independent and critical reporting.


On June 25th, the station aired a report describing a communication submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Cambodian officials of perpetrating crimes against humanity related to forced evictions and displacements. The next day, the Prime Minister publicly called for Mam Sonando’s arrest during a speech which was broadcast nationally on television , when he connected the head of Association of Democrats to events in Kratie.

Please read the whole analysis of Man Sonando case made by LICADHO.


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Lack of evidence leaves court little choice but to acquit Mam Sonando and set him free


Over the course of the three days to date of close monitoring of Mam Sonando’s hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) has heard no evidence that in any ay connects Mam Sonando with the events in Kratie province in May 2012 or the charges he now faces, and urges the court to do the only rational, reasonable and legal thing it can: acquit Mam Sonando of the charges against him and set him free immediately. If convicted, Mam Sonando could face up to 30 years in prison.

Please link the statement of this case click here

Mam Sonando’s Trial Began Yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court

Phnom Penh, 12 September 2012 — The trial of Mam Sonando, President of the Democrats Association and owner of Beehive radio station (FM 105), began yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Mam Sonando faces charges related to a so-called “secessionist plot” in Kratie province, including insurrection and incitement, which could carry a sentence of up to 30 years imprisonment. Mam Sonando, who is 71, voluntarily returned to Cambodia to defend himself. He has been seriously ill while in pre-trial detention and was denied bail on two occasions.

Mam Sonando has repeatedly denied any involvement with a land dispute in Broma village, Kampong Domrey commune, Chhlong district, Kratie province and with Bun Ratha, who is accused of leading the alleged secessionist movement there. On 16 May 2012, 14-year old Heng Chentha was killed by Cambodian armed forces during a clash with villagers resisting their eviction. No investigation has been conducted into the girl’s death, since the authorities claimed that the shooting was “accidental.” Allegations that the villagers intended to create a “self-governing area” lack supporting evidence and are verging on nonsensical. They might be used to divert attention from the authorities’ systematic use of excessive force against citizens embroiled in land conflicts with rich, well-connected companies and individuals.

Yesterday, Mam Sonando reiterated that he did not mastermind a so-called “secessionist plot.” The weapons presented by the prosecution as “evidence”—bows and arrows, sticks and other tools—are usually used for hunting. They cannot match the strength of a military unit, let alone sustain a long-term operation aiming at seceding from Cambodia. If judges seriously claim that Mam Sonando and the villagers intended to create their own state by using such light weapons, then they will have to declare them criminally insane. Furthermore, four months after the violent crackdown in Broma village, Cambodian authorities have failed to present any evidence of Mam Sonando’s and others’ intent to create their own state. Beyond the fact that intent is a constitutive element of a crime under all of the world’s legal systems, secessionist leaders usually claim responsibility for their actions and proclaim their intent to secede; they do not deny it.

The first day of Mam Sonando’s trial witnessed an improvement in the Cambodian judicial authorities’ observance of fair trial rights. Numerous witnesses were called to testify (although the vast majority of them were called by the prosecution); counsels were present in the room; and diplomats and a few NGO representatives were allowed in the courtroom. Conversely, on 24 May 2012, 13 women from the Boeung Kak community were sentenced to prison terms after a two-hour trial during which all of their basic fair trial rights were violated.

However, several rights of the defense have been ignored by the judicial authorities. Long Lun, an Attorney at Law working with ADHOC, represents eight of the accused, namely: Touch Roeun, Phorn Sroeurn and Kan Sovan (who have been placed in pre-trial detention) and Hang Phal, Heng Thoeurn, Mao Veasna, Phum Vannak and Saroeun Rom (who had been released on bail). ADHOC noticed several irregularities with regard to due process. Firstly, in breach of article 98 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, several of the accused did not have access to a lawyer after the expiration of a period of twenty-four hours from the beginning of police custody. Secondly, Long Lun had full access to the case file only on 7 September—two working days before the start of the trial. Article 145 of the Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that the investigating judge shall summon the counsel for the accused at least five days before the interrogation takes place, and grant him or her access to the case file. This never happened. Lastly, in the next few days, Long Lun could not freely communicate with his clients. Prison officials prevented them from meeting with their counsel, in violation of article 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

What is more, Cambodian citizens, NGO workers and international observers were prevented from entering the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Doors were closed to journalists, except when a key prosecution witness was questioned. Outside the court, police forces completely closed Charles de Gaulle Boulevard and all adjacent streets, demonstrating skills in crowd management that went virtually unnoticed before.

The second day of the trial should allow the court to hear more witnesses. ADHOC calls for more transparency and hopes that Cambodian citizens, NGO workers and journalists will be able to enter the courtroom to monitor one of the most high-profile trials held in Cambodia in recent years.

For more information, please contact ADHOC’s Human Rights Monitoring Section:
Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Section: 011 274 959  (Khmer, English)

Mr. Nicolas Agostini, Technical Assistant: 078 405 024  (French, English)

Link to original Source here: http://adhoc-cambodia.org/?p=1981