Cambodia: Ny Chakrya’s unjust conviction must be overturned
Paris-Geneva, September 23, 2016 – The unjust conviction of prominent Cambodian human rights defender Ny Chakrya must be overturned, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) said today.
On September 22, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Ny Chakrya, former head of the Human Rights and Monitoring Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), to six months in prison and a six million riel (about 1,310 Euros) fine. The conviction was based on trumped-up charges that stemmed solely from his human rights activities.
“Ny Chakrya’s conviction is the latest development in an ongoing pattern of harassment by Cambodia’s judiciary. The guilty verdict clearly exposes the judiciary’s lack of impartiality and independence. This conviction is unjust and must be overturned”, said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
Ny Chakrya was found guilty of charges of “public defamation”, “acts of slanderous denunciation”, and “commentaries to put pressure on jurisdiction” under Articles 305, 311, and 522 of the Cambodian Criminal Code respectively. The charges were based on a complaint filed by the former Deputy Prosecutor and the Investigative Judge at the Siem Reap Provincial Court in relation to a press conference held by Ny Chakrya on May 12, 2015, in Siem Reap. During the press conference, Ny Chakrya condemned the arbitrary arrest and detention of two villagers involved in land disputes in Siem Reap Province.
In court yesterday, the prosecution failed to demonstrate that Ny Chakrya had committed any of the crimes with which he was charged. During the three-and-half hour hearing, the court heard abundant exculpatory evidence that clearly warranted the dismissal of the charges against him.
A recording of the May 12, 2015 press conference was played in court. From the content of the recording, it was clear that Ny Chakrya never made any statements that defamed Siem Reap court officials. In addition, two defense witnesses who attended the May 12, 2015 press conference testified to this fact. After the prosecution and defense concluded their presentations, trial judge Khy Chhai took less than 15 minutes to deliberate before announcing the guilty verdict.
“Yesterday’s hearing showed that trials of human rights defenders in Cambodia are a farcical formality. The judge’s behavior during the hearing and his disregard of exculpatory evidence indicated that he was predisposed to finding Ny Chakrya guilty”, said FIDH Director of Asia Desk – Southeast Asia Andrea Giorgetta, who observed the court proceedings on behalf of the Observatory.
Ny Chakrya has been arbitrarily detained since May 2, 2016 in connection with another case in which he is accused of having been an accomplice in the bribing of a witness, along with ADHOC staff members Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Lim Mony.
“The escalating number of cases of judicial harassment and arbitrary detentions in Cambodia is alarming and illustrative of the precarious situation in which human rights defenders find themselves. Cambodian courts must no longer be used as a tool of the authorities to silence civil society”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
The Observatory urges the Cambodian Government to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ny Chakrya, as well as against all human rights defenders in the country, to enable them to carry out their work without hindrance.
The Observatory further calls on the Cambodian Government to ensure that all judicial proceedings against Ny Chakrya and other human rights defenders facing charges are carried out in full compliance with their right to a fair trial, as protected under international law.
The Observatory also urges the Cambodian authorities to ensure the respect of international human rights standards related to prison conditions. These include the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (‘Mandela Rules’) and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
Ny Chakrya has been arbitrarily detained since May 2, 2016, on charges of being an accomplice in the bribing of a witness (Articles 29 and 548 of the Criminal Code) in connection with a separate case from the one for which he was convicted on September 22, 2016. On May 2, 2016, ADHOC staff members Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Lim Mony were also detained on charges of bribing a witness (Article 548 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, the five human rights defenders could face prison terms of five to ten years.
Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, and Yi Soksan are held in Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 1 (‘CC1’), while Lim Mony is detained in Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 2 (‘CC2’). Ny Chakrya is detained in Police Judiciaire (PJ) prison. All three prisons are located in Phnom Penh.
On June 13, 2016, the Court of Appeals in Phnom Penh denied bail to Ny Chakrya, Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, and Lim Mony. The court’s refusal to release the five detained human rights defenders on bail is a significant obstacle to the exercise of their basic rights, including the fundamental right to liberty and the right to a fair trial.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.