The Royal Government of Cambodia must immediately end the legal harassment of human rights defender, Ny Chakrya, Head of the Human Rights and Legal Aid Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), the ICJ said today.
On 13 July 2015, a Deputy Prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court questioned Ny Chakrya for two hours in relation to statements he had made at two press conferences in May 2015.
The summons and questioning were, according to information provided to the ICJ, pursuant to a complaint by an Investigating Judge and another prosecutor.
The proceedings appear to be based on the fact that at the press conferences Ny Chakrya alleged that two clients of ADHOC had been arbitrarily arrested and detained in Siem Reap province and were facing an unfair trial.
“The legal harassment of Ny Chakrya for merely raising allegations of human rights violations is itself a clear violation of human rights,” said Kingsley Abbott, ICJ’s International Legal Adviser.
“Human rights defenders play a vital role in promoting and protecting human rights and the State has a duty to create the conditions for them to be able to carry out their work effectively and without fear of retaliation,” he added.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a State Party, guarantees the right to freedom of expression; the prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention and the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law; and the right to seek effective remedies for alleged violations of human rights.
The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by a consensus of States including Cambodia, affirms the right of everyone to peacefully oppose human rights violations.
It reaffirms the prohibition of retaliation, threats and other harassment against anyone who takes peaceful action against human rights violations, both within and beyond the exercise of their professional duties.
It also protects the right of persons to file formal complaints about alleged violations of rights.
The UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors provide that prosecutors have the duty to uphold human rights and that states must ensure they have the power and discretion to fulfill this and other duties. Prosecutors should not proceed with a case they know to be unfounded.
“The complaint against Ny Chakrya was clearly without foundation and he should never have been summoned for questioning in the first place,” Abbott said. “To continue to proceed with this case would be a violation of Ny Chakrya’s rights as a human rights defender.”
The ICJ reiterates its call for the end of the legal harassment of Ny Chakrya and that his case should be closed definitively by whatever means or to whatever extent is available to the Deputy Prosecutor and other state officials.
According to information provided to the ICJ, on 22 June 2015 the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a summons for Ny Chakrya to appear before it for questioning pursuant to a complaint filed by the Investigating Judge and the Deputy Prosecutor of the Siem Reap Provincial Court alleging public defamation (Art. 305 of the Cambodian Criminal Code), acts of slanderous denunciation (Art. 311 of the Cambodian Criminal Code), and the publication of comments to put pressure on the jurisdiction (Art. 522 of the Cambodian Criminal Code).
On 13 July 2015 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the Deputy Prosecutor questioned Ny Chakrya about statements he made at two press conferences organized by ADHOC.
At a press conference on 12 May 2015 in Siem Reap, Ny Chakrya and a lawyer from ADHOC alleged that two clients of ADHOC had been arbitrary arrested and detained in the context of a high profile land dispute in Siem Reap province.
Ny Chakrya alleged that their arrest and detention was a violation of Cambodian law and international human rights law.
At a press conference on 20 May 2015 in Phnom Penh, Ny Chakrya sought to raise public awareness about a complaint that he had filed the same day to the President of the Disciplinary Council of the Supreme Council of Magistracy.
In the complaint, Ny Chakrya alleged that the Deputy Prosecutor and Investigating Judge of the Siem Reap Provincial Court lacked independence and that the two villagers would not receive a fair trial as a result.
On 17 June 2015, the Siem Reap Provincial Court found ADHOC’s clients guilty of inciting a group of villagers to trespass on, use and destroy the property of Community Takhmao Development Agricultural & Industrial, an agricultural development company.
They were sentenced respectively to six months’ and eight months’ imprisonment.
The criminal proceedings arose in the context of a dispute between Community Takhmao Development Agricultural & Industrial and villagers in Chup Romdeng Village in Siem Reap province regarding the alleged illegal clearing of land in Siem Reap province.
Kingsley Abbott, ICJ International Legal Adviser, t: +668 4092 3575 ; e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases