Re: Mr. Sam Chankea

Re: Mr. Sam Chankea, Coordinator, Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)

To: Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen et al.

From: Gail Davidson

Date: 2011-01-21

We have become aware of the situation of Mr. Sam Chankea, Coordinator of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC). Mr. Sam Chankea has been working on land rights issues in Cambodia. According to information we have received, Mr. Sam Chankea was scheduled to face a hearing related to charges of disinformation and defamation on 18 January 2011 before the Kg. Chhnang Provincial Court. We understand that the hearing has now been delayed. The charges allege that Mr. Sam Chankea defamed the KDC International Company, owned by Lauk Chumteav Chea Kheng, wife of Minister of Mining and Energy. We understand these charges are related to a radio interview broadcast on 26 December 2009 in which Mr. Sam Chankea expressed his opinion over a land case conflict involving the land rights of dozens of villagers and the KDC International Company in Kampong Chhnang province. Mr. Sam Chankea stated in the interview that “what the company has done is an act of violation since the court has yet to rule on the merits of the case. Therefore the company should suspend the activity and await the ruling on the merits of the case.” Mr. Sam Chankea was also quoted in Koh Santepheap newspaper on 30 December 2009.

We urge your government to uphold international standards of freedom of expression as per Cambodia’s constitution and the international human rights conventions ratified by Cambodia. In particular, we urge your government to ensure that Cambodian authorities respect and ensure the protection of all human rights defenders who exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Furthermore, we urge that your government insist that all authorities in Cambodia adhere to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted 9 December 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly. We draw your attention to Article 1 and Article 6, which provide that human rights defenders have both rights and responsibilities to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels, and to draw public attention to issues concerning observance of human rights. Article 12.2 provides that states have a responsibility to ensure that authorities protect the work of human rights defenders against retaliation they may experience as a result of their legitimate human rights advocacy.

The information we have received about the charges against Mr. Sam Chankea indicates no behaviour or statements other than the legitimate expression of opinion in the context of human rights advocacy. LRWC deplores all illegitimate uses of criminal courts by powerful interests to intimidate human rights defenders conducting their legitimate work to uphold international standards of human rights. LRWC calls upon your government to ensure and insist on the immediate cessation of any and all forms of judicial harassment of Mr. Sam Chankea or any other human rights defenders in Cambodia.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada also calls upon your government to respect and uphold the independence of the judiciary and respect for international standards for fair trials in this case, and to ensure at all times the safety and wellbeing of Mr. Sam Chankea.