Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cambodia: 21 human rights defenders and protesters denied bail, sign of deteriorating situation


The Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") condemns the 11 February 2014 decision by the Court of Appeal to deny bail to 21 of a group of 23 human rights defenders, activists and protestors arrested during demonstrations in early January in the Kingdom of Cambodia ("Cambodia"). The two other men were granted bail during a hearing on the morning of 7 February and released under judicial supervision the next day.

The 11 February ruling upheld the decision of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which had denied bail to all 23 men on the basis of ending crime, preventing new crime and ensuring detainees are available for trial. The Court of Appeal's decision to deny bail was made without the defendants attending the hearing and despite serious concerns for the health of several of them.

The 23 were arrested on 2 and 3 January, in the midst of a government crackdown on protests by garment workers, monks, victims of forced evictions and supporters of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party ("CNRP") outside of the Yak Jin and Canadia factories in Phnom Penh, which resulted in at least four deaths and dozens of injuries. Since their arrest the 23 have repeatedly been denied their rights to a fair trial upheld in international and Cambodian law. They were held incommunicado by the authorities for five days, without access to lawyers, medical care or their families. The authorities finally revealed on 7 January that they were being held at Correctional Center 3 ("CC3") in Kampong Cham province. Since, civil society groups, including CCHR and the Cambodian Labour Organization ("CLC"), have not been allowed to visit them.

CCHR urges the Royal Government of Cambodia (the "RGC") to expedite the trial and any appeal of the 11 February decision to the Supreme Court and to respect international and Cambodian legal standards throughout the case. Ensuring the independence of the judiciary is key to upholding and promoting everyone's fundamental rights.

CCHR President Ou Virak comments:

"The decision to deny bail to all but two of the people arrested in early January further indicates that these arrests have never been anything more than an attempt by the RGC to silence its critics. It also further shows the extent to which the judicial system in Cambodia is flawed and how incapable it is to make decisions free of political interference. This decision is a further attack on freedom of assembly and expression in Cambodia, where the message has already been made clear that people are not allowed to speak out for their rights."