CSOs condemn upholding of conviction of human rights defender Ny Chakrya

We, the undersigned civil society organizations ("CSOs"), condemn in the strongest terms

the upholding of the unjustified conviction of the former Head of the Human Rights and

Monitoring Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association

("ADHOC") and current Deputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee

("NEC"), Mr. Ny Chakrya, in a verdict handed down by the Court of Appeal today.

This case is not only an instance of injustice committed against one individual, but also just

one example of a larger, deeply troubling pattern, whereby over the past year the Royal

Government of Cambodia ("RGC") has used a court system armed with vaguely-drafted

provisions of the Cambodian Criminal Code, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to

eliminate all dissenting voices ahead of the upcoming elections. Human rights defenders, the

labor movement, and civil society activists all face an increasingly hostile environment, in

which legitimate human rights work and free expression are criminalized, peaceful

protesters are imprisoned, and democratic space is increasingly restricted.

Despite pardons being granted to opposition members Kem Sokha and Seang Chet in recent

weeks, members of the political opposition also continue to face arrest and imprisonment

on spurious charges. Although this conviction relates to his previous work as a human rights

defender, Mr. Ny Chakrya's current role as the only non-partisan member of the NEC and his

position as the Deputy Secretary-General of the body, strongly suggests that his prosecution

is an attempt to undermine the independence of the NEC. If Mr. Ny Chakrya's conviction

becomes final (i.e. subject to no further appeals), he will be removed from his position at the

NEC, a development that would seriously call into question whether the upcoming elections

could be considered free, fair, and legitimate.

On 22 September 2016, Mr. Ny Chakrya was convicted by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on

charges of defamation, malicious denunciation, and publication of commentaries intended

to unlawfully coerce judicial authorities, under Articles 305, 311 and 522 respectively of the

Criminal Code. He was sentenced to six months in prison and given a fine of six million Riel

(approximately $1500). The initial complaint against Mr. Ny Chakrya was submitted by an

investigating iudge and a deputy prosecutor at Siem Reap Provincial Court, in relation to

criticism he voiced in May 2015 during two press conferences organized by ADHOC, calling

for investigation into procedural irregularities in the handling of a land dispute and the

release of two victims of land rights violations in that conflict. His appeal hearing took place

in the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh on 6 December 2016.

We are extremely disappointed that the Court of Appeal failed to take this opportunity to

exercise its judicial independence, and correct the serious deficiencies in the procedures and

reasoning of the first instance court. The Municipal Court judge deliberated for a mere 15

minutes before deciding to convict Mr. Ny Chakrya on all three charges, while Mr. Ny

Chakrya's right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense was

severely undermined by the fact that for the past 230 days he - along with four of his former

colleagues at ADHOC - has been held in unlawful arbitrary detention in a separate case

which also bears all the hallmarks of politically motivated harassment of human rights

defenders.1

All three charges on which Mr. Ny Chakrya was convicted constitute an

Four senior staff of ADHOC - Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony - have been informally charged

with bribery of a witness and remain in pre-trial detention in connection with their legitimate provision of legal

erroneous and disproportionate application of criminal sanctions to punish and deter the

exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and as such are in violation of

Cambodia's binding legal obligations under international and domestic human rights law.

Political speech and discussions of human rights, such as the remarks made by Mr. Ny

Chakrya, are protected under international human rights law.

We, the undersigned CSOs, reiterate our strong condemnation of this flawed and unfair

conviction and the continued detention of Ny Chakrya. We recall Cambodia's binding

obligations under the Constitution and international human rights law, and call on the

Cambodian judiciary to discharge these obligations by acting with genuine independence,

and on the RGC to immediately cease its instrumentalization of the criminal justice system

to silence critics and criminalize the peaceful and legitimate actions of human rights

defenders.

Source: Cambodian Center For Human Rights