UPDATE: 27 June- Good news! At their trial today, the women human rights defenders have received reduced prison sentences for time served and have been released from jail. However, their convictions were not overturned and their land and housing rights are not secured.
Release of 13 Boeung Kak Lake representatives tainted by police - Joint statement from Cambodian CSO coalition
Request for observers to attend appeal trial Boeung Kak Lake human rights defenders
22 June 2012
Ambassadors Accredited to The Royal Kingdom of Cambodia
(22 ambassadors – referenced below)
Dear His/Her Excellency:
Re: Request for observers to be sent to the appeal trial of the Boeung Kak Lake human rights defenders
We, the undersigned human rights organisations, are writing to encourage you to send high level observers to attend the June 27, 2012 appeal hearing for the 13 female Boeung Kak Lake land and housing rights activists. They were charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced on May 24, 2012 solely as a result of exercising their fundamental right to freedoms of expression.
The women are part of the ‘Boeung Kak Lake 15’, which refers to 15 land and housing rights activists (14 women and one man) who have been actively protesting the forced evictions of the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 13 women were arrested on May 22, 2012 during a peaceful protest on the site of demolished homes at the former lake. On May 24, just 48 hours after their arrests, all 13 were subjected to an approximately three-hour long mass trial. The women’s lawyers’ requests for time to prepare the case, examine the case file, speak with their clients, and call witnesses were all denied. These fair trial rights are not only expressly guaranteed under Cambodia’s own Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure, they are also guaranteed under international treaties which Cambodia has ratified.
Two additional community representatives who were prepared to testify on behalf of the 13 women were arrested outside the court room during the trial. They were charged with the same crimes and detained.
Immediately upon the conclusion of the May 24 trial, all 13 women received sentences of 2.5 years each, with some portions of six of their sentences suspended. The two representatives arrested during the trial have recently been released and are under judicial supervision awaiting their trial. Further details about the case can be found in the briefing paper attached to this letter.
An appeal hearing for the 13 has been set for 7.30 a.m. on June 27 at the appellate court (court is located on the riverside just south of the Royal Palace). We are of the view that strong international pressure and interest in the case will improve the women’s chance of receiving a fair trial. The presence of international observers from donor governments and the international community more generally will add significant support to calls for a hearing that follows the rule of law and international human rights standards. Moreover, we consider that the case against the women should in fact be dismissed and that they should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Suppression of activists and community members opposing forced evictions and land grabbing appears to be increasing, and should the convictions of the 13 Boeung Kak Lake activists stand, the case will serve as a warning to other human rights defenders and embolden those governments, corporations and individuals perpetrating forced evictions and other human rights violations.
We sincerely appreciate the contribution of your presence at the trial would make in the defence of human rights.
For more information including articles, photos and video please visit The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) website http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/and the Free the 15! Blog http://freethe15.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/solidarity-action-5-ceremony-to-free-the-15/.
We look forward to receiving your response to our letter.
Kate Lappin, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia Programme Director, Civil Rights Defenders
Daniel Calingaert, Vice President, Policy and External Affairs, Freedom House
Yvette J. Alberdingk Thijm, Executive Director, WITNESS
Donna J Guest Deputy Director, Asia Pacific, Amnesty International
Brad Adams, Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
The letter is addressed to 22 Ambassadors based in Phnom Penh or Bangkok, representing following countries or delegation:
Ambassador Penny Richards
The Australian Embassy, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Mark Gooding
The British Embassy, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Rudi Veestraeten
The Belgian Embassy, Bangkok
Chargé des Affaires Svilen Popov
Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria,
Ambassador Ron Hoffmann
The Embassy of Canada, Bangkok
Ambassador Mikael Hemniti Winther
The Royal Danish Embassy, Bangkok
Ambassador Jean-François Cautain
The Delegation of the European Union,
Ambassador Sirpa Mäenpää
The Embassy of Finland, Bangkok
Ambassador Christian CONNAN
The Embassy of France, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Wolfgang Moser
The German Embassy, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Yael Rubinstein
The Embassy of Israel, Bangkok
Ambassador Ignazio di Pace
The Embassy of Italy, Bangkok
Ambassador Masafumi Kuroki
The Embassy of Japan, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Joan A. Boer
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Bangkok
Ambassador Tony Lynch
The New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok
Ambassador Katja Christina Nordgaard
The Royal Norwegian Embassy, Bangkok
Ambassador Jerzy BAYER
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Bangkok
Ambassador Alexander I. Ignatov
The Russian Embassy, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Ignacio Sagaz Temprano
The Embassy of Spain, Bangkok
Ambassador Anne Höglund
The Swedish Embassy, Phnom Penh
Ambassador Christoph Burgener
The Swiss Embassy, Bangkok
Ambassador William E. Todd
The Embassy of the United States, Phnom Penh