A version of this joint letter has been sent to: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, US, EU, and UN Mandate Holders (Geneva).
Ms. Farida Shaheed
Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights
Chair, Coordination Committee of Special Procedures
22 June 2012
Dear Ms. Farida Shaheed:
Re: Request for a joint statement by UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders concerning the Boeung Kak Lake human rights defenders
We, the undersigned human rights organisations, are writing to encourage you to release an urgent joint statement in relation to the ‘Boeung Kak Lake 15’.
The ‘Boeung Kak Lake 15’ 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. Thirteen women protesters 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 also 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 June 27. 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. Moreover, we consider that the case against the women should in fact be dismissed and that they should be immediately and unconditionally released.
An urgent joint statement from UN Human Rights Council special procedures mandate holders would send a clear message that the international community is monitoring the case.
We also ask that your statement address the overlapping violations that have occurred to date including, inter alia, the rights to: a fair trial (and to prepare and present a defence); substantive equality and non-discrimination; adequate housing (including secure tenure); food and water security; adequate healthcare; education; decent work; security; freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; freedom of expression; freedom of movement; and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
Suppression of activists and community members opposing forced evictions and land grabbing appears to be increasing. 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 attention that a joint statement would bring to the case and the contribution it 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.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Southeast Asia Programme Director
Civil Rights Defenders
Vice President, Policy and External Affairs
Yvette J. Alberdingk Thijm
Donna J Guest
Deputy Director, Asia Pacific
Director, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
Yap Swee Seng
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
Members of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures:
Michel Forst, Independent Expert on Haiti
Kamala Chandrakirana, Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
Najat Maala M'jid, Special Rapporteur on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Jeremy Sarkin, WG on enforced or involuntary disappearance
Jane Connors, Chief, Special Procedures Branch, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights