Report on the Arrest of Kem Sokha and other Public Figures
There is a Cambodian working group, and a key member of that national working group is Kem Sokha, an eminent human rights defender and the director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
On 31 December 2005, Kem Sokha
was arrested by the Cambodian authorities on charges of criminal defamation against the Government, resulting in his
The arrest of Kem Sokha
triggered the concern of the Working Group
in regard to the declining human rights situation in Cambodia, affecting human rights defenders, including those belonging to the Cambodian working group.
This was the primary reason why , at short notice, the Working Group
sent two of its members, Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand) and Param Cumaraswamy (Malaysia) to Phnom Penh to appraise the situation , to try to visit Kem Sokha
and to explore future options.
The arrest of Kem Sokha
is one of several recent arrests and charges brought against human rights defenders and well known public figures by the Cambodian authorities on grounds of criminal defamation.
These incidents have added to the "climate of fear" emanating from government-related practices.
This was noted by several people with whom the Working Group
The circumstances behind the arrest were that the Cambodian Center for Human Rights
, and other NGOs, including the Community Legal Education Centre
, were part of the organizing committee of a public event to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2005, which had been authorized by the authorities.
One banner belonging to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights
had additional comments written on it, including a comment which gave rise to the defamation charges - it allegedly accused the Prime Minister of Cambodia
of "selling land" to Vietnam.
Kem Sokha , Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights was arrested with Yeng Virak, Director of the Community Legal Education Centre on 31 December 2005.
Later, Kem Sokha's
deputy, Pa Nguon Teang, was also arrested.
On a positive note, at the time of the visit of members of the Working Group
, Yeng Virak was released on bail, although the defamation charges had not been dropped.
However, the bail application of Kem Sokha
had been rejected at first instance and was pending appeal before a higher court.
Both Kem Sokha and his
deputy were in pre-trial detention in a Phnom Penh prison.
While Kem Sokha's
lawyers had periodic access to him in prison, Kem Sokha's
wife had only been permitted to visit once; however, on the day when the Working Group
members talked to his
wife, they were informed that Kem's wife had been told she
would be granted permission to visit him twice a week.
We understand that during the week following our visit she
was given permission to visit him four times a month;
has health problems needing attention from his
own doctor; to date his
doctor has had no access to him; a medical report from his
doctor should also be prepared and given to the prison authorities and to the judge considering his
bail application; given the poor conditions of the prison, Kem Sokha's
health has been affected negatively;
Regrettably, the Working Group
members were unable to visit Kem Sokha
as permission had not yet been granted for them to visit, prior to their departure from Phnom Penh;
Ensure that Kem Sokha's
family and doctor have access to him consistently in any event; the need for such humanitarian access pertains to the situation of all prisoners;
Enable a medical report on Kem Sokha's
health to be prepared by his
doctor and ensure that it is taken into account by the prison authorities and the judge considering his
bail application, for the sake of humane treatment;
and other public figures were released on bail after the visit of the Working Group
members, primarily due to foreign pressure from many sources.