Topic: Judiciary and Rule of LawPress Release: Demand for abolishment of Article 62 UNTAC law on criminal disinformation
Published on October 12, 2006; The Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC) demands for abolishing Article 62 of the UNTAC law on criminal disinformation. The network of 28 Cambodian civil society organizations holds that this legal provision contradicts the Cambodian Constitution and the international human rights law by imposing unjustifiable restrictions to the human right to Freedom of Expression. In the view of AFEC, there are other and much more adequate legal ways how to protect public peace than a law against disinformation. The AFEC is convinced that the mere publication of false statement of facts should not be criminalized at all.
In an open society there are many mechanisms that finally lead to the revelation of truth. The recent cases where high-ranking government officials brought criminal disinformation complaints against two journalists, a dismissed university teacher and three people who distributed a leaflet are demonstrating how Article 62 can be abused for silencing criticism. The fact that some of these persons are still arrested is a gross violation of Freedom of Expression.
Published on October 4, 2006; The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) a coalition of 21 NGO members, petitions the Appeal Court to release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun in their upcoming Appeal Court hearing on October 6, 2006.
CHRAC has made investigations into the Chea Vichea assassination, which occurred on January 22, 2004 and continues to believe that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have nothing to do with the assassination. CHRAC considers the Phnom Penh Municipal Court's verdict to have been politically motivated. Furthermore, its appears that the police investigation into the assassination involved several now disgraced police officers, some who have now been arrested for criminal activity.
Published on September 14, 2006; In the Cambodian context, any NGO law - regardless of its particular content - poses a threat to the work of human rights defenders and other NGOs. While human rights defenders are most at risk because of their role in criticizing government actions, the objectives of all NGOs and development agents - both foreign and domestic - can be compromised.
This paper highlights the experience of six Asian countries with laws similar to the proposed Cambodian NGO law is outlined below.
Published on September 7, 2006; Wednesday September 6, 2006 marked the three-month anniversary of the detention of two villagers - Chan Ra and Chhen Sovan - from Sambok Chab village and Hem Chhun, a journalist from Khmer newspaper Samrek Yuthetor (Scream for Justice). The three had been arrested and detained in connection to the Sambok Chab eviction which, on June 6 2006, culminated in an excessive display of force by the authorities to empty the village.
Assembling inside a pagoda nearby Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison, family members of the three men, surrounded by over 200 supporters, spoke to the media and the crowd.
Published on August 4, 2006; The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 21 NGO members, regrets
the decision made by Kandal Provincial Court to charge and detain three garment factory workers; Lach Sambo, Sal Kimsan and Yin Khun who have been working for Genuine garment factory since 4 July 2006.
From 23 to 29 June 2006, 1000 workers at the Genuine garment factory, located in Kantok commune, Angsnuol district, Kandal province, held a strike to demand for the factory boss to withdraw complaints and allow to return union leader Lach Sambo and other two workers; Sal Kimsan and Yin Khun. All three were terminated by the boss in relation to a non-existent criminal case.
Published on August 2, 2006; The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 21 NGO members, calls for the prompt release from prison of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who were one year ago yesterday convicted -- despite a severe lack of evidence -- of murdering trade unionist Chea Vichea.
On August 1, 2005, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of murder and sentenced to 20 years. CHRAC continues to believe that the trial verdict was grossly unfair due to the lack of forensic evidence presented against the men. CHRAC also notes that numerous organizations and individuals, including Former King Norodom Sihanouk as well as the family of Chea Vichea, have publicly declared the innocence of Born Samnang and Sok SamOeun.
Published on August 1, 2006; On August 1, 2006 at 11:00am approximately 80 family members, friends, monks, union workers and NGO workers, gathered in front of the Police Judicial (PJ) Prison to call for the release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. August 1 marks the one year anniversary of their conviction at what was widely considered a show trial for the assassination of union leader Chea Vichea.
Published on July 26, 2006; On Friday, July 21, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted six police officers of voluntary manslaughter for the death of Duong Sopheap, who died after being detained at the Phnom Penh Municipal Police's Minor Crimes Office in June 2005. All six, who were arrested by Ministry of Interior officers six months after Duong Sopheap's death, were sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Following the unprecedented sentences given last week to the six police officers for their roles in the torture and death of a woman in police custody, LICADHO urges greater action to investigate and prosecute other similar cases of torture in Cambodia.
Published on July 11, 2006; The Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC) is very worried about the fact that persons from within or close to the Cambodian government are using Article 62 of the UNTAC law on "disinformation" against journalists who criticized them. The recent complaint against two Cambodian journalists have been filed only a few weeks after that the National Assembly has taken the prison terms out of Article 63 of the UNTAC law on criminal defamation recently. The AFEC is afraid that there was no change of attitude behind this minor legal reform.
Published on July 10, 2006; On July 6, 2006, more than 250 family members, villagers from Sambok Chab, NGOs workers and union workers gathered in front of Prey Sar prison to demand the immediate and unconditional release of three detainees. The three had been arrested and detained in relation to the Sambok Chap village eviction which ended on June 6, 2006 in an excessive display of force by the authorities. The event was organized by several NGOs and was initiated by the Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC).
Published on May 12, 2006; On 5 May 2006 more than 50 representatives of Cambodian and
international Human Rights NGOs gathered to launch a report prepared by the International
Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) with the active participation of the Cambodian
Association for Human Rights and Development (ADHOC) on the implementation of the
Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), ratified by Cambodia on 11 April 2002.
NGOs endorsed the recommendations contained in the Report on "ICC - Adaptation of Cambodian Law to the Rome Statute".
The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court with jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by nationals or on the territory of State Parties after 1 July 2002. Cambodia is one of the only Asian States to be a party to this historic institution.
Published on May 2, 2006; The members of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 21 NGOs, welcome the news that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy will this week select the judges and prosecutors for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC).
This is a very important decision and will have important implications for the future of Cambodia and Cambodians. The efficient conduct of the trials in accordance with the principles of international law will further enhance Cambodia's international reputation. Trials, open to the public, will also help Cambodians to move on from the long period of civil conflict which included the Khmer Rouge period. By participating in the Tribunal judges, prosecutors and lawyers will gain valuable experience and skills, which will help them to participate in the implementation of the Government's legal and judicial reform program.
Published on March 1, 2006; The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 18 NGO members, welcomes this week's first meeting for 2006 of the Government-Donor Coordination Committee as a key opportunity to reflect upon the progress made in 2005 to achieve the benchmarks set by the Royal Government of Cambodia and Consultative Group and also to set out the indicators to measure progress for 2006.
CHRAC notes that the Royal Government of Cambodia has made some efforts in 2005 to progress its Strategy for Legal and Judicial Reform with the further development and launch mid-year of its Action Plan. However, we observe that the eight fundamental laws, identified in the CG benchmarks for December 2004 as essential to strengthening the rule of law, have not been passed.
Published on February 26, 2006; During 2005, the Cambodian Government did not demonstrate satisfactory progress toward legal and judicial reform, and hence failed in its stated aim of strengthening the rule of law in Cambodia. The concept of 'rule of law' prevails where (i) the government itself is bound by the law, (ii) every person is treated equally under the law, (iii) the human dignity of each individual is recognized and protected by the law and (iv) justice is accessible to all. This widely accepted legal principle is intended to safeguard against arbitrary rulings and misuse of power, and is vital to the healthy functioning of a viable democratic Government and State.
The Government has had the entire year of 2005 to take action on agreements made during the December 2004 Consultative Group (CG) meeting. Yet the initiatives taken by the Government were disappointing. The minimal efforts made towards creating a healthy legal system that promotes liberal democracy and human rights were heavily outweighed by the retrograde steps that saw freedom of expression curtailed and government critics imprisoned
Published on February 17, 2006; The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 18 local NGOs, welcomes and supports the announcement to review decriminalization defamation in the draft Penal Code by the head of the Royal Government in Kandal province on 14 February 2006 further to public appeals made by civil society including CHRAC members.
CHRAC acknowledges that the proposed plan to change defamation from a criminal offense to a civil offense shows the Government's willingness to urge and motivate citizens and civil society organizations to fully express their views in a democratic way as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. However, this announcement is only the first step.