Posts Tagged ‘Cambodia’

Human rights defenders in Asia suffer reprisals says Gilmour

May 18, 2018

On 18 May 2018 several newspapers – such as The Guardian and Scoop (NZ) – carried a piece by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights based in New York, which describes with great frankness how human rights defenders in Asia are under attack. To quote liberally:

In February, hundreds of Filipino participants in the peace process, environmental activists and human rights defenders were labeled “terrorists” by their own government. The security of the individuals on this list is at stake, and some have fled the Philippines. The UN independent expert on the rights of indigenous peoples – Victoria Tauli-Corpuz – was on this list. This followed the vilification only months before of another UN independent expert – Agnès Callamard – who deals with extra-judicial executions. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he wanted to slap her, and later announced that he would like to throw other UN human rights officials to the crocodiles. The national Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines was threatened with a zero budget and its former chair, Senator Leila de Lima, is in detention for her advocacy. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/10/there-seems-to-be-no-limit-to-what-duterte-is-willing-to-say-and-may-get-away-with/]

…..If governments in the region can target high profile human rights defenders and those associated with the UN with impunity, what is the message to others at community level who are not afforded the same visibility? ..

In the run up to the 2018 national elections in Cambodia, the Government has cracked down on the opposition, independent media and civil society. ..

In Myanmar, there were reports of violent reprisals by Tatmadaw, the armed forces, against civilians who met with Yanghee Lee, UN independent expert on Myanmar, following her visit to Rakhine State. …..

Bogus accusations of abetting terrorism are a common justification that we hear from governments to defend the targeting of the UN’s important civil society partners. We have countless cases of advocates charged with terrorism, blamed for cooperation with foreign entities, or accused of damaging the reputation or security of the state.

I recently met with a group of human rights defenders from across South-East and South Asia about their experiences, which in some cases have been made worse by speaking out or if they share information with the UN. The stories about these reprisals were common – they have been charged with defamation, blasphemy and disinformation. They are increasingly threatened and targeted for their work, indeed some have been labeled as terrorists. There were also accusations of activists being drug addicts or mentally unwell.

Some governments feel threatened by any dissent. They label human rights concerns as “illegal outside interference” in their internal affairs; or as an attempt to overthrow regimes; or as an attempt to impose alien “Western” values.

Opposition to economic development and investment projects seems to incite particular ire. Agribusiness, extractive industries, and large-scale energy initiatives, including those that involve indigenous peoples’ land, often bear the brunt of the backlash.

Women’s rights activists and advocates of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons seem to be particularly targeted. Many are ostracized by their communities, labelled as outcasts, or branded as immoral. Sexual violence is part of this backlash, including rape threats.

Those working for religious freedom have been called ‘anti-Islam’, they and their families threatened or harassed. When advocacy for religious tolerance intersects with that of women’s rights and sexual freedom, the stakes can be even higher.

……

We are taking these allegations seriously, and addressing particular incidents of reprisals with governments. Civil society has to be heard – for the sake of us all.


For more of my posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1805/S00115/human-rights-advocates-in-asia-under-attack.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/18/imprisoned-threatened-silenced-human-rights-workers-across-asia-are-in-danger

 

5th Werner Lottje lecture in Berlin focuses on Cambodia

February 8, 2018

On 21 February 2018, Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights organise for the 5th time the Werner Lottje Lecture [the lecture is named after the German activist who was a major force in the international human rights movement [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/16/and-a-lot-more-about-werner-lottje-the-great-german-human-rights-defender/].

This year the focus is on human rights defenders in Cambodia.

For last year’s lecture see: : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/26/the-4th-werner-lottje-lecture-showcases-the-zone-9-bloggers-from-ethiopia-15-february/.

Programme:

Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel; President Bread for the World

Naly Pilorge; Acting Director, LICADHO, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights

Julia Duchrow; Head Human Rights and Peace, Bread for the World

Michel Forst; UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

19:00 panel discussion with Gyde Jensen; MP, chair of the Bundestag Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance; Michel Forst; Naly Pilorge; and Dr. Julia DuchrowModerated by Michael Windfuhr; acting Director German Institute for Human Rights

 

Date and place: 21/2/2018, 17:30 – 20:00 at Brot für die Welt, Caroline-Michaelis-Straße 1, 10115 Berlin.

To attend please contact eimear.gavin@brot-fuer-die-welt.de (+49 (0)30 65211 1811) before 15 February.

 

There will be German – English interpretation.

 

Human Rights Day 2017 in Asia: MIND THE GAP

December 11, 2017

International Human Rights Day 2017 was celebrated all over the world by governmental and non-governmental entities alike. Here some cases of MIND THE GAP as reported in the media in Asia:

Cambodia:

The government celebrated Human Rights Day under the theme of ‘peace’, but 103 civil society groups spoke out against state ‘attacks’. KT/Mai Vireak

The government yesterday celebrated the 69th anniversary of International Human Rights Day under the theme of peace, while 103 civil society groups called for more protection for human rights defenders. Prime Minister Hun Sen posted on his Facebook page to say how the rights and freedoms of Cambodian people have been restored since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979: “December 10 is International Human Rights Day, which people all over the world celebrate. On January 7, 1979, the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people were restored and have been until this day.”

Civil society meanwhile marked the day at different locations around Phnom Penh and in other provinces. A group of 103 civil society organisations issued a joint statement calling for justice and respect for human rights from the government. “On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, we, the undersigned members of Cambodian civil society, call for an end to government attacks on human rights defenders and civil society groups and the lifting of unjustifiable restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” the statement said.

Philippines:

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the observance of the International Human Rights Day, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to uplift the lives of Filipinos, especially the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Noting that the Philippines is an active member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and that respect for human rights is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, Roque assured that the Duterte administration “works hard with the best interest of every Filipino.” ..“That direction is what inspires the government’s compliance with its human rights obligations. As a Nobel Peace Prize winner once said, ‘poverty is the absence of human rights” .

The Philippines has experienced a precipitous drop in basic human rights standards since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power last year, resulting in large, mass mobilizations across the country for the occasion of December 10, Human Rights Day. At least 12 rallies were held across the archipelago on Sunday, with human rights group KARAPATAN and progressive alliance BAYAN taking the lead alongside a range of like-minded groups calling for an end to what they describe as the U.S.-Duterte regime. In addition to over 13,000 small-time drug dealers and addicts killed during Duterte’s “war on drugs,” Karapatan has documented 113 victims of political killings, 81 victims of torture, 54,573 victims of threat, harassment, and intimidation, 364,617 who have suffered due to indiscriminate firing and aerial bombing, and 426,170 internally displaced who were subject to forced evacuation.  

Turkey:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AA
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AA

Respect for human rights based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination of individuals before the law is the irreplaceable nature of the Republic of Turkey,” said Erdogan, according to state-run Anadolu Agency, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on Sunday. Erdogan specifically referenced Turkey’s commitment to “all oppressed people and victims from Palestine to Syria and Asia to Africa.”

Turkey has been cited by several international organizations for human rights violations, namely in its justice system, freedom of speech and Internet communications, treatment of minorities, and political censorship. See inter alia: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/22/celebrities-come-out-to-support-taner-kilic-amnesty-turkeys-chair-on-trial-today/.

Thailand:

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner and human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit said that despite the government’s claim that it cherished human rights and had made them a priority, in reality it had done nothing to do so.
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
Angkhana Neelaphaijit
Thailand is still far from its goal of valuing human rights since the junta’s policies and actions have eroded rights, while many people do not even understand the principle. Prominent Thai campaigners marked Human Rights Day yesterday to lament that the country was still far from its professed goal of ensuring everyone was accorded the freedoms they deserve. The nation’s most severe human rights violation was the lack of freedom of expression, they said in an appeal to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to restore democracy to truly guarantee human rights for every citizen. They also said Thailand faced many serious human rights crises. For instance, social movements across the country continued to be suppressed by authorities, the justice system was being used against human rights defenders, and many people in society still did not understand human rights and harmed others. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner and human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit said that despite the government’s claim that it cherished human rights and had made them a priority, in reality it had done nothing to do so. On the contrary, Angkhana said the government was doing the very opposite, enforcing many laws and regulations that violated human rights and curbing the activities of campaigners, both through law enforcement and by force. In effect, the regime was deepening Thailand’s human rights crisis, she said.

Pakistan:

Message by Foreign Minister of Pakistan : ”On behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan, I wish to reiterate our strong commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as needs. Pakistan has demonstrated its resolve by enacting wide ranging legislation, establishing strong institutional machinery and putting in place robust policy measures in the field of human rights. Pakistan’s Constitution serves as an anchor and guarantor of fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Pakistanis.  The Government of Pakistan accords high priority to advancing mutually reinforcing objectives of development, human rights and democracy…This year is also significant for Pakistan in the field of human rights. Pakistan actively engaged with the UN human rights institutions and partners through regular submission of national reports, participation in review processes and implementation of recommendations arising from such mechanisms. Pakistan filed reports and participated in the review mechanism of three international treaty bodies, namely CAT, ICESCR and ICCPR. Pakistan also successfully presented its third national report on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 13 November 2017. This level of engagement, participation and contribution demonstrates Pakistan’s commitment as well as actions to advance the cause of human rights.  Pakistan’s success as the newly elected member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) this year is a testimony to the confidence reposed in Pakistan by the international community as a consensus builder within the international human rights policy framework.

The struggle against enforced disappearance was seen in Sindh alone while though there have been cases of missing persons in other provinces but Sindh has dared to raise voice against such violations of human rights.  These views were expressed at a seminar on occasion of Human Rights Day organized here by SAFWCO and Social Change. Noted Human Rights activist and lawyer Faisal Siddiqui said only voice against forced disappearances was being heard from Sindh while voice of Balochistan has been crushed with force. Though many persons were missing in KPK and Punjab but from there no voice is heard.  He said our judiciary has come out of colonization era and was giving right decisions. He said it was he who had filed petition in SHC for IG Sindh A.D.Khwaja. He said he was harassed for being advocate against Baldia Factory burning of 258 persons, Shahzeb Jatoi case and other cases for which he was harassed and could not open his office for many months. He said now powerful forces were active human rights.  The gathering paid tributes to Pubhal Saryo, convener of missing persons forum who was whisked away by agencies and released after more than 2 months. Punhal Saryo said it has become very difficult to work for human rights in situation where human rights defenders were also not safe.
—————–

http://www.khmertimeskh.com/5095119/civil-society-decries-attacks-nation-marks-human-rights-day/

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/multimedia/Human-Rights-Day-Marked-In-Philippines-Amid–All-Out-Repression-Drug-War-Martial-Law-20171210-0021.html & https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/951114/human-rights-day-roque-duterte-palace-poor-marginalized-un-rights-council

http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/101220171

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30333640

http://www.mofa.gov.pk/pr-details.php?mm=NTY5Mw,, and http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/detail.php?hnewsid=6705

Duterte, Hun Sen nominated for 2017 Confucius Peace (of the graveyard) Prize

December 6, 2017

2017-05-11T120000Z_1745229718_RC1506183260_RTRMADP_3_WEF-ASEAN-940x580

Even if one is aware of the difference between a peace prize and a human rights award (see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/05/geneva-the-right-place-for-the-worlds-human-rights-award/), the nomination of Duterte and Hun Sen as candidates for the Confucius Peace Prize seems almost cynical.

The  informs us on a year of bloody campaigns, infringements on human rights and accusations of authoritarianism, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen seem like unlikely candidates to be included in a shortlist of nominees for a peace prize. But the 2017 Confucius Peace Prize, labelled the Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, has selected the two Southeast Asian leaders for this year’s award.

Awarded by a private company, the Confucius awards have courted controversy since their foundation in 2010. Originally set up under the Association of Chinese Indigenous Arts in China, then-chairman Tan Changliu claimed the award existed to “promote world peace from an Eastern perspective.” But the award has since been banned by China’s Culture Ministry, forcing the organisers to relocate to Hong Kong. The renamed China International Peace Research Center has presented the award to a string of authoritarian political figures who favour a pro-Beijing stance. In 2015, the recipient was former Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who was accused of a “litany of human rights abuses” over his 37-year term. The organiser cited his “contribution to peace in Africa,” but the award drew widespread international criticism. Mugabe declined to accept the award, which comes with US$15,000 prize money. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/23/mugabe-wins-chinese-peace-prize-this-time-for-real/]

Other winners include Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, former Cuba’s president Fidel Castro, and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The winners are announced in early December.

Read more at https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/12/duterte-hun-sen-nominated-2017-confucius-peace-prize/#kpW31LjFIIJ4A407.99

Cambodian ‘ADHOC 5’ Human Rights Defenders surprisingly freed…for the time being

June 30, 2017

 Lim Mony (first from left), Nay Vanda (third from left), Ny Sokha (fourth from right), and Yi Sokan (first from right) speak to the media in Phnom Penh after their release from pre-trial detention, June 29, 2017.
Lim Mony (first from left), Nay Vanda (third from left), Ny Sokha (fourth from right), and Yi Sokan (first from right) speak to the media in Phnom Penh after their release from pre-trial detention, June 29, 2017.  RFA
Many media outlets [here Radio Free Asia] and social media reported on the conditional release of the ‘ADHOC5′ (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/29/the-adhoc-five-in-cambodia-continue-to-linger-in-shameful-pre-trial-detention-for-more-than-a-year). On 29 June 2017, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Theam Chan Piseth concluded his investigation and issued a court order to send their case to trial, conditionally freeing the five from detention and placing them under court supervision. According to the ruling, the five cannot change their residence or leave the country without court permission and must answer to any court summons. Following their release, the former detainees traveled to a nearby temple, where a Buddhist monk performed a cleansing ceremony to “wash away all evil.” The four active ADHOC officials then gathered at their organization’s office for an hour before returning to their homes.

[ADHOC officials Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, and Nay Vanda, and National Election Committee (NEC) deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya, had been held for 427 days amid a wide-ranging probe into a purported affair by opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha. Authorities have charged the ADHOC officials with bribery and the NEC official—who is also a former ADHOC official—with accessory to bribery for attempting to keep Kem Sokha’s alleged mistress quiet. The five are collectively known as the “ADHOC 5.”]

Ny Chakra’s lawyer Som Sokong told RFA’s Khmer Service that he welcomed the provisional release of the ADHOC 5, but said the court should have thrown out their cases. “We are not satisfied with the court for not dropping all charges against them,” he said. “This release was done through a closing order by the investigating judge, who has forwarded the case to trial while releasing the charged persons provisionally. Their provisional detention has never been justified, which means it was a violation of their rights.”

Speaking to RFA after his release, Ny Sokha said that despite the hardships of his time in prison, he was encouraged by the support he and the other four detainees received from the local and international community, adding that he is committed to continue campaigning for human rights. “Even as a human rights defender, I was still badly mistreated, so I cannot imagine how ordinary people would have been treated,” he said.

Nay Vanda thanked the media for its coverage of his case, as well as NGOs and local supporters for pushing for the release of the ADHOC 5, while Ny Chakra pledged to return to his work at the NEC as soon as possible.

cambodia-yi-sokan-and-wife-june-2017-400.jpg
Yi Sokan embraces his daughter in Phnom Penh after his release from prison, June 29, 2017. Credit: RFA

ADHOC director Thun Saray, who fled to Canada last fall amid the charges against his four colleagues, told RFA he was pleased to learn that they had been released, but added that a provisional release was not enough to bring them and Ny Chakra justice. “I’m afraid they will be imprisoned again if their activities upset their arrestors.”

In response to an April court ruling to extend the pre-trial detention of the ADHOC 5, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) called for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to “release without delay” the five rights defenders, while the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended last November that they be freed. On April 26, the detainees were collectively named as a finalist for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/.

Source: Cambodia Court Conditionally Frees ADHOC 5 Rights Activists

The ADHOC FIVE in Cambodia continue to linger in shameful pre-trial detention for more than a year!

April 29, 2017

From left to right: Ny Chakrya, Yi Soksan, Ny Sokha, Lim Mony and Nay Vanda.

From left to right: Ny Chakrya, Yi Soksan, Ny Sokha, Lim Mony and Nay Vanda. RFA

On 27 April 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court extended the pre-trial detention of senior ADHOC staff and human rights defenders, Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Ny Chakrya by an additional six months, purportedly to further investigate their case. The five human rights defenders have already spent a year in pre-trial detention!  The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/adhoc]  is a human rights organisation founded in December 1991 by a group of former political prisoners aiming to address the absence of basic rights and freedoms in Cambodia. The organisation assists human rights victims and disseminates information on human rights, law and democracy to the Cambodian public.

On April 26, 2017, the detainees, listed as “FreeThe5KH” (Free the Khmer Five), were named as a finalist for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/].

Many NGOs and the UN (including an opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last November) have called on he Cambodian government to immediately release five the human rights defenders and urge all to participate in the #FreeThe5KH campaign at https://freethe5kh.net/. “Cambodia’s donors should publicly call for the release and dropping of bogus charges against the ‘ADHOC Five,’ which were instigated by Prime Minister Hun Sen to intimidate and suppress human rights work,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW. “These human rights defenders are in jail as part of a campaign to destroy the opposition and scare Cambodian human rights workers into silence.”

Radio Free Asia reported on 28 April that the children of two of the human rights defenders said that their families faced serious hardship during the year their parents have spent in prison and expressed hope they might be freed.

Sources:

OHCHR BRIEFING NOTES – Arkansas executions, Cambodia | Scoop News

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/children-04282017171322.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/26/cambodia-use-anniversary-freethe5kh

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/26/breaking-news-three-human-rights-defenders-selected-as-finalists-for-the-2017-martin-ennals-award/

https://www.ifex.org/cambodia/2017/04/28/free-khmer-five/

Breaking news: three Human Rights Defenders selected as Finalists for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award.

April 26, 2017

Today, 26 April 2017, the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that the following 3 human rights defenders have been selected as the Finalists for the  2017 Martin Ennals Award. This award is considered to be the main of award of the whole international human rights movement as the Jury (see below) is composed of leading human rights NGOs.

FreeThe5KH (Cambodia)

FreeThe5KH are five Human Rights Defenders who have been in pre-trial detention for almost one year. This is linked to their work with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC). International bodies like the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and UN Special Rapporteurs have repeatedly called for their immediate and unconditional release, and a stop to judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Cambodia based on their legitimate human rights work. This comes in the context of an increasingly severe crackdown on civil society and the political opposition in Cambodia.

On behalf of the Khmer Five, Thun Saray, President of (ADHOC) comments: “It is an immense honour for the five HRDs to be selected as finalists. 28 April will mark their one year in arbitrary detention on the basis of their legitimate human rights work. The increased attacks against HRDs and activists has had a tremendous impact on those working to promote and protect human rights in Cambodia. This Award is symbol of encouragement for every courageous Cambodian, who continues to speak out against injustices and human rights violations. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone that has supported the nomination.

Karla Avelar (El Salvador)

Karla Avelar, a transgender woman in El Salvador, grew up on the streets of San Salvador, suffering discrimination, violence, exploitation, and rape. She was imprisoned when she defended herself, and then regularly abused by fellow prisoners with the knowledge and even participation of the prison authorities. These terrible experiences have forged her into a powerful advocate. With three others, she founded COMCAVIS TRANS, which was created to represent, defend, and promote the human rights of LGBTI persons, with a focus on those living with HIV, as she does. She works to change legislation and the authorities’ practices, by holding them publicly to account. Notably her advocacy helped prompt the authorities to segregate LGBTI prisoners for their own safety, and allow for the standard HIV treatments provided by the Ministry of Health.

She said,” I want to thank Martin Ennals, the jury, and those who nominated me for this important award. Although today I am in danger, and sure that my struggle is risky, my eagerness for justice and equity motivates me. I will continue to push the State to accept reforms and legislation proposed by civil society to allow the LGBTI community to fully enjoy their human rights.”

Mohamed Zaree (Egypt)

Mohamed Zaree is the Egypt Country Director for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), responsible for CIHRS’s legal research, media outreach and national advocacy. CIHRS’s work was influential in the Arab world particularly Egypt, which resulted in death threats to its director. This forced the CIHRS executive director and regional staff to move abroad to continue their work. Mohamed chose to stay and is now banned from travel. He is a legal scholar coordinating research to challenge laws designed to limit NGOs activities working on human rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly. He is widely seen a unifying figure bringing together the human rights community in Egypt to advocate with a common approach.

He stated “Our hopes were high following the Egyptian revolution in 2011; we don’t know how the situation has instead deteriorated to such an extent. Today, we are battling human rights violations that are worse than before 2011, and challenging the normalization and acceptance of these atrocities. Killing almost 1000 citizens in few hours, arresting almost 40,000 others, innocents dying in Egyptian prisons; is not the norm and we will not allow it to become so. We human rights defenders are fighting these abuses at risk of indefinite imprisonment. 

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following NGOs:

  • Amnesty International,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • Human Rights First,
  • FIDH – Int’l Federation for Human Rights,
  • World Organisation Against Torture,
  • Front Line Defenders,
  • International Commission of Jurists,
  • EWDE Germany,
  • International Service for Human Rights,
  • HURIDOCS

The Award will be presented on October 10th 2017 at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva.

For further information, please contact: Michael Khambatta +41 79 474 8208 khambatta[at]martinennalsaward.org or visit www.martinennalsaward.org

Cataloger of Khmer Rouge Atrocities wins Judith Lee Stronach Award

April 8, 2017

Chang Youk, director of DC-Cam, talks to VOA Khmer about national reconciliation at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 08th, 2016. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)
Chhang Youk, director of DC-Cam, talks to VOA Khmer about national reconciliation at his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 08th, 2016. (Neou Vannarin/VOA Khmer)

Chhang was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime. He fled to the United States as a refugee, but memories of the suffering he endured brought him back to his homeland in the early 1990s. He founded DC-Cam and has led the organization since 1995, creating a national genocide education program. Nushin Sarkarati, a senior attorney at CJA, said that without Chhang’s dedication there would be little justice for the victims and survivors.

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Beth Van Schaack, a Stanford law professor who advises DC-Cam, said the group’s orientation towards victims made Chhang a natural choice for the award. “What CJA really admires about DC-Cam is it also has a very victim centered approach, working-hard to help Cambodian victims, experience justice before the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] and DC-Cam has become in many ways a model for other documentation centers around the world that are collecting information that can be submitted to justice processes where human rights are concerned,” she said.

Nate Thayer, a journalist who has reported on Cambodia for some three decades, said without Chhang’s work, the Khmer Rouge perpetrators would have gotten away with their crimes. “Youk Chhang was a one-man army fighting for justice for those who suffered in Cambodia and his personal passion and devotion bringing those who responsible for mass murder to justice, to face the music, to answer for their crime.

Peter Maguire, a law professor and an author of “Facing Death in Cambodia,” called Chhang a “Cambodian national treasure” whose efforts bring more truth and reconciliation to the Cambodian people than the combined efforts of the United Nations and ECCC.

Youk Chhang, a leading Cambodian genocide researcher, shows a copy of the Cambodian version of a Khmer Rouge history textbook to teachers in Takeo province, July 3, 2012.

Youk Chhang, a leading Cambodian genocide researcher, shows a copy of the Cambodian version of a Khmer Rouge history textbook to teachers in Takeo province, July 3, 2012.

Neth Pheaktra, ECCC spokesman, told VOA Khmer that DC-Cam deserved the award as it had uncovered valuable evidence that could be used at the court. “The work that DC-Cam has done helps the ECCC save time in finding evidence by ourselves, and it shows us the way, brings us information as well as some historical documents we needed for the trials.”

Chhang is currently working on developing the Sleuk Rith Institute, a permanent hub for genocide studies in Asia based in Phnom Penh.

Source: Cataloger of Khmer Rouge Crimes Wins Prestigious Human Rights Award

Even landmark UN decision does not change Cambodia’s treatment of human rights defenders

March 11, 2017

I was reading (belatedly) about the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, who in January 2017 intervened strongly in the case of the 5 Cambodian human rights defenders of ADHOC (#FreeThe5KH) who have been in detention since April last year. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/] Only then did I realize that the case had led a few months earlier to a landmark decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD): the first time that any UN body has referred to HRDs as a protected group.

 

 

On 21 November 21, 2016, the WGAD ruled that the ongoing detention of Mr. Ny ChakryaDeputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), and four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny SokhaYi SoksanNay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, was “arbitrary.” Following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) in June 2016, the WGAD’s Opinion No. 45/2016 ruled that the five human rights defenders (HRDs) have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26 of the ICCPR.” This is the first time ever that the WGAD – or any other UN mechanism receiving individual complaints – has referred to HRDs as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ruling also recognised the violation of the five HRDs’ “rights to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance and other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights.”

 In addition, the WGAD found that the targeting of ADHOC staff members for having provided “legitimate legal advice and other assistance” violated the five HRDs’ right to freedom of association. It ruled that violations of fair trial rights (including the fact that the five were denied legal counsel from the beginning of their questioning), unjustified pre-trial detention, and statements made by the Cambodian authorities which denied the five the presumption of innocence – all of which contravene Cambodia’s international human rights obligations in respect to the right to a fair trial – are also serious enough to consider their ongoing detention as arbitrary. The WGAD concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Monyand Ny Chakrya, being in contravention of articles 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9, 10, 14, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary.”

That Cambodian authorities are not impressed is shown by the continued detention of the 5 ADHOC HRDs and by the press release of 7 February 2017 calling for the cessation of the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak. Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists signed the statement.

Phnom Penh 20170207 PHTO
Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56036#.WMP0Dhhh2V4

Cambodia: In landmark decision, UN body declares the detention of five human rights defenders arbitrary #FreeThe5KH / December 18, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/cambodia-drop-farcical-investigation-human-rights-defenders

Adidas and Human Rights Defenders: no longer run-of-the-mill?

December 8, 2016

In 2012 – in the run up to the London Olympics – the Playfair 2012 Campaign (supported by War on Want and others) highlighted the appalling experiences of workers making Adidas official Olympic and Team GB goods in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “Around the world 775,000 workers, mainly women, in 1,200 factories across 65 countries make Adidas products. Almost all of the jobs are outsourced to factories in poorer countries, yet through Adidas’ buying practices the company has enormous influence over their working conditions, and ultimately their lives. In the run up the London 2012 Olympics research has exposed the harsh reality of life for these workers.” The campaign demanded Adidas to end worker exploitation. playfair2012.org

In a report of 11 March 2015 on Labor Rights Abuses in Cambodia’s Garment Industry Human Rights Watch noted that brands can do more and said “For example, Adidas wrote to Human Rights Watch that it first started privately disclosing its supplier list to academics and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 2001 and moved to a public disclosure system in 2007.”

In an article in Open Democracy of 17 June 2015  Mauricio Lazala and Joe Bardwell under the title: “What human rights?” Why some companies speak out while others don’t.state that:More recently, civil society has called on FIFA sponsors to respond to human rights concerns at construction sites for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. So far, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa have issued statements supporting workers’ rights in the country

In an article published on 16 November 2015, ISHR Director Phil Lynch explored the role, responsibility and interest of business when it comes to supporting human rights defenders and protecting civil society space. He mentions Adidas in the following context: The fourth and final category of actions, perhaps the most important but also the least common, involves business actively advocating and seeking remedy for human rights defenders and against laws and policies which restrict them. Such action could be private, as I understand to be the predominant approach of Adidas. It could also be public, such as the open letters and press statements issued by Tiffany & Co and others for the release of Angolan defender and journalist Rafael Marques

On 31 December 2015, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre listed in its “KnowTheChain” (a ranking of 20 apparel and footwear companies on efforts to address forced labour in the supply chain) Germany-based Adidas as number one out of 20.

On 21 June 2016 Adidas published its policy on HRDs: “The Adidas Group and Human Rights Defenders“. As there is such a dearth of corporate policies specifically on human rights defenders, here follows the key part in quote:

The threats faced by human rights defenders come in many forms – physical, psychological, economic, and social – and involve the interaction of many factors (poor governance, the absence of the rule of law, intolerance, tensions over development issues, etc.) and can be triggered by different actors, both private and State.

In his report to the General Assembly in 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders recommended that both States and businesses should play an active role in supporting and promoting the role of HRDs working in their sectors. This should include, for example, speaking out when human right defenders are targeted for their corporate accountability work. Businesses must also cease and abstain from supporting any actions, directly or indirectly, which impinge upon defenders’ rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The adidas Group has a longstanding policy of non-interference with the activities of human rights defenders, including those who actively campaign on issues that may be linked to our business operations. We expect our business partners to follow the same policy; they should not inhibit the lawful actions of a human rights defender or restrict their freedom of expression, freedom of association, or right to peaceful assembly.

We value the input and views of all stakeholders and we are willing, and open, to engage on any issue, be this related to our own operations or our supply chain. Often, our engagement with human rights defenders is constructive, especially where we identify areas of shared concern. For example, with respect to transparency and fair play in sports, or environmental sustainability, or the protection of worker rights in our global supply chain. In these instances, we may actively support the work of the HRD and derive shared value from our joint endeavours in, say, improving working conditions, safety, or the environment.

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