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International Coalition calls for the release of the women human right defenders of Boeung Kak Lake
19th June 2012
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is concerned by reports that thirteen peaceful female protesters have been arrested and sentenced for up to two and a half years for defending the rights of their community at Boeung Kak Lake, Cambodia.
Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake has been an area of ongoing land disputes which - according to our national partners - has resulted in more than 600 families receiving land grants and over 3,500 families being evicted, while other families have been unfairly excluded from receiving land titles. On the 22nd of May about eighty members of the community gathered peacefully at the sand filled lake to sit and sing land rights songs in support of eighteen displaced families. Before noon, it was reported that about two hundred Phnom Penh police and anti-riot police carrying shields and sticks surrounded some of the protesters and arrested thirteen women. Within forty-eight hours all the women received prison sentences, including a seventy two year-old grandmother, to thirty months of imprisonment under Articles 34 and 259 of the Land Law and Articles 504 of the Penal Code.
WHRD IC is particularly concerned that proceedings began only an hour after charges were filed and those proceedings lasted only three hours. Lawyers asked for a delay to allow the preparation of a defense, which is their right under Cambodian law. However not only was this refused, but the lawyers for the accused were also refused access to the files, state evidence, and were not permitted to call witnesses (some of whom were on standby outside the court). Furthermore, two community representatives, who were to act as witnesses for the defense, were arrested outside the court on the same charges; they have since been released on bail under the supervision of the court. Other witnesses, media and the public were not admitted to the courtroom to observe the proceedings. This irregular judicial process denied the women their right to a fair trial and was in clear violation of Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
The women have appealed their convictions to the Appeal Court and requested bail; the appeal court hearing is scheduled for 27 June. There has also been a lack of response to calls from the international community, including WHRD IC members, to the Prime Minister Hun Sen to vacate the convictions of the women.
The WHRD IC calls for the Cambodian authorities to:
- Immediately vacate the convictions and unconditionally release the thirteen women and also drop the criminal charges of the two other community representatives now out on bail.
- Uphold the right to a fair and just trial and the right of peaceful assembly for all its citizens under the Cambodian law and international standards, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Cambodia is a state party.
- Grant land titles to the families who have been excluded and to provide adequate compensation to those who were evicted in full compliance with international human rights standards.
- Fulfil their commitments under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities.
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide.
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/