Loan Torondel, 21, worked with L’Auberge des Migrants in Calais for two years, helping to provide legal information and support and humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in northern France.

© 2018 Loan Torondel
(Paris) – An appeals court’s confirmation of the defamation conviction of an aid worker on June 24, 2019 for an ironic tweet sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said today. The case was a serious escalation in harassment and intimidation of aid workers in France

The Court of Appeal in Douai, northern France, found Loan Torondel, the aid worker, guilty of defamation for a tweet he published in early January 2018 and sentenced him to pay a 1,500 euro fine (about US$1,700), which it suspended, and ordered him to pay damages and court costs. It was the first defamation case against an aid worker in France for criticizing the French government’s actions against migrants. Torondel told Human Rights Watch that he would appeal to the Court of Cassation, France’s court of last resort.

“This decision against Loan Torondel is a worrying precedent and a blow to freedom of expression,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “It resonates as a pernicious intimidation against staff or volunteers for organizations that speak out against police abuses against migrants.”

In January 2018, while working for the Auberge des Migrants, which provides crucial assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in Calais, Torondel published a tweet criticizing abusive police practices toward migrants. This tweet, with a photo showing two police officers standing over a young man seated in a field, imagined that the young man was protesting against the confiscation of his sleeping bag in the middle of winter and that the officer replied: “Maybe, but we are the French nation, sir,” an allusion to a speech President Emmanuel Macron gave in late December 2017.

Torondel was prosecuted following a complaint by one of the police officers and was sentenced by the first instance by a court in Boulogne-sur-Mer on September 25.

Torondel worked with Human Rights Watch earlier in 2019, and the organization is about to resume the collaboration to research police practices during identity checks in France.

A volunteer operating in Calais, Tom Ciotkowski, was also prosecuted, for “insult and violence” after filming French police officers who were impeding a food distribution to migrants and asylum seekers by volunteers in Calais. But he was acquitted on June 20 by the Boulogne-sur-Mer court. 

Torondel's conviction and Ciotkowski’s prosecution expand on what aid workers have regularly described as harassment by the French police to hinder or prevent aid workers and volunteers supporting migrants and asylum seekers from carrying out their work in Calais.

The aid workers have reported repeated fines for minor infractions and parking violations, excessive use of identity checks, and temporary confiscations of mobile phones to look through or delete their content. In some cases, aid workers have reported being improperly sprayed with tear gas or pushed or insulted by police officers. 

Human Rights Watch, the French Defender of Rights, UN observers, and four associations in Calais reported abusive practices by the police in Calais, both against migrants and asylum seekers and against aid workers. Amnesty International recently published a detailed report on the criminalization and harassment of people defending refugee and migrant rights in northern France. 

Criminal defamation laws are a disproportionate and unnecessary restriction on free speech and create a “chilling effect” that effectively restricts legitimate as well as harmful speech. The UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the representative on freedom of the media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), together with the Organization of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression, have called for the abolition of such laws.

The UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has said that countries should take particular care to ensure that defamation laws – civil or criminal – “should never be used to prevent criticism of government” and “should reflect the principle that public figures are required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism than private citizens.”

“Obstructing assistance to migrants and bringing legal proceedings that criminalize the denunciation of abuses is a shameful tactic to deter solidarity,” Jeannerod said. “France should not go down this dangerous path, which reduces the working space of both aid workers and government critics.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Recent reports that the US monitored calls between members of President Trump’s campaign staff and Russian intelligence personnel have renewed controversy about the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), and how those bodies handle the information they collect. But anyone concerned about the scope or legality of the US government’s warrantless intelligence surveillance should also worry about the way these programs may affect the country’s border and immigrant communities.

A general view shows part of the Loma Blanca neighborhood as a section of the border fence marking the boundarie with El Paso, U.S. is seen on the background, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 18, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

The US currently has two main “foreign” surveillance powers it can—in practice—use to obtain and sift through information on people within its borders without a warrant. (We do not yet know whether either of these was the legal basis for intercepting the conversations with Trump’s campaign staff). 

The first, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, setting the stage for an intense debate in Congress about reforming surveillance. Under Section 702, the NSA (with telecommunications companies’ help) automatically searches virtually all the Internet communications flowing over the fiber optic cables that connect the US to the rest of the world—a practice known as “upstream” scanning. 

As of 2015, 26 percent of people in the United States were first- or second-generation immigrants.  Upstream monitoring, as we currently understand it, means that whenever any of these tens of millions of people—or anyone else in the US—sends an email to a friend or family member in another country, the US government is likely searching those communications to see if they contain e-mail addresses or other “selectors” of interest. This kind of suspicionless, warrantless, disproportionate monitoring violates human rights.

In addition to Section 702, Executive Order 12333 allows the NSA and other US agencies to vacuum up the communications of US citizens and lawful permanent residents in the course of foreign surveillance. Leaked documents indicate that pursuant to EO 12333, the US has grabbed records of potentially all telephone calls in countries including Mexico and the Philippines. In other words, if you are in El Paso, Texas and have called your mother in Juárez, Mexico, US intelligence agencies probably have a record of your call. They can use this data to map social networks—and share it for law enforcement purposes.

The US’ vast warrantless surveillance powers are not only an issue for legal wonks or the technically savvy: they may be affecting people and communities throughout the United States and the world. Congress and the judiciary should regard them as direct threats to both US democracy and human rights.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(New York) – The latest revisions to China’s Criminal Law impose up to seven years in prison for “spreading rumors” about disasters, Human Rights Watch said today. The revised law, which took effect November 1, 2015, does not clarify what constitutes a “rumor,” heightening concerns that the provision will be used to curtail freedom of speech, particularly on the Internet.

“The revised Criminal Law adds a potent weapon to the Chinese government’s arsenal of punishments against netizens, including those who simply share information that departs from the official version of events,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities are once again criminalizing free speech on the Internet, which has been the Chinese people’s only relatively free avenue for expressing themselves.”

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved the addition of a provision to article 291(1) of the Criminal Law (Criminal Law Amendment Act (9)), which states that whoever “fabricates or deliberately spreads on media, including on the Internet, false information regarding dangerous situations, the spread of diseases, disasters and police information, and who seriously disturb social order” would face prison sentences – with a maximum of seven years for those whose rumors result in “serious consequences.” The vagueness of the provision means that individuals doing nothing more than asking questions or reposting information online about reported local disasters could be subject to prosecution.

In the past, the Chinese government has detained netizens who questioned official casualty figures or who had published alternative information about disasters ranging from SARS in 2003 to the Tianjin chemical blast in 2015, under the guise of preventing “rumors.”

The revision was made in the context of a wider effort to rein in online freedom since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013:

  • In August 2013, the authorities waged a campaign against “online rumors” that included warning Internet users against breaching “seven bottom lines” in their Internet postings, taking into custody the well-known online commentator Charles Xue, and closing popular “public accounts” on the social media platform “WeChat” that report and comment on current affairs;
  • In September 2013, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (the state prosecution) issued a judicial interpretation making the crimes of defamation, creating disturbances, illegal business operations, and extortion applicable to expressions in cyberspace. The first netizen who was criminally prosecuted after this took effect was well-known blogger Qin Huohuo, who was sentenced to three years in prison in April 2014 for allegedly defaming the government and celebrities by questioning whether they were corrupt or engaged in other dishonest behavior;
  • In July and August 2014, authorities suspended popular foreign instant messaging services, including KakaoTalk, claiming the service was being used for “distributing terrorism-related information”;
  • In 2015, government agencies such as the State Internet Information Office issued multiple new directives, including tightening restrictions over the use of usernames and avatars, and requiring writers of online literature in particular to register with their real names;
  • In 2015, the government has also shut down or restricted access to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which many users depend on to access content blocked to users inside the country and also help shield user privacy;
  • In March 2015, authorities also deployed a new cyber weapon, the “Great Cannon,” to disrupt the services of GreatFire.org, an organization that works to document China’s censorship and facilitate access to information;
  • In July 2015, the government published a draft cybersecurity law that will requires domestic and foreign Internet companies to increase censorship on the government’s behalf, register users’ real names, localize data, and aid government surveillance; and
  • In August 2015, the government announced that it would station police in major Internet companies to more effectively prevent “spreading rumors” online.
     

Activists in China are regularly prosecuted for speech-related “crimes,” Human Rights Watch said. The best known of these crimes is “inciting subversion,” which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison. But authorities have also used other crimes such as “inciting ethnic hatred,” as in the case of human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who has been detained since May 2014 for a number of social media posts questioning the government’s policies towards Uighurs and Tibetans.

While providing the public with accurate information during disasters is important, the best way to counter inaccurate information would be to ensure that official information is reliable and transparent, Human Rights Watch said.

Above all, journalists should have unimpeded access to investigate and inform the public about these events, and the wider public should have the freedom to debate and discuss disaster response.

“The casualties of China’s new provision would not be limited to journalists, activists and netizens, but the right of ordinary people and the world to know about crucial developments in China,” Richardson said. “The best way to dispel false rumors would be to allow, not curtail, free expression.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A women’s rights protester is detained by police in Baku on October 20. 

© 2019 REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

(Berlin) – Azerbaijan police violently dispersed two peaceful protests in central Baku on October 19 and 20, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. Police rounded up dozens of peaceful opposition and civic activists, beating and roughing them up while forcing them onto buses and into police cars.

Among those detained was the leader of the opposition Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, who sustained numerous injuries at the hands of law enforcement officers while detained for several hours. Several other detained opposition activists told Human Rights Watch that they were severely beaten in police custody.

“Once again, the Azerbaijani government has shown complete disregard for people’s right to hold peaceful protests,” said Giorgi Gogia, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately release all protesters and investigate any allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement.”

The National Council of Democratic Forces, a coalition of opposition parties and activists in Azerbaijan, organized the demonstration in central Baku for October 19. They called for the release of political prisoners and for free and fair elections and protested growing unemployment and economic injustice. A day later, several dozen women’s rights activists held a protest over violence against women and femicide, and killings by domestic partners.

The authorities had turned down requests to hold the protests in central Baku.

In the early hours of October 19, the Baku metro stopped operating at three stations in the city center. Police cordoned off wide areas in the city center, blocking main roads leading to it. Media and activists also reported that the internet was cut in the vicinity of the area and mobile phone coverage was spotty.

Several hundred protesters still made their way to the city center around 3 p.m., when the rally was to start. They chanted “Resign” and “Freedom.” Uniformed police and security officials in civilian clothes almost immediately moved in without warning to forcefully restrain protesters, twisting their arms in apparently painful positions, and violently dragging and carrying them to police vehicles.

The forcible treatment and arrests were seen on numerous videos, widely available on social media.

According to the police, they detained 60 of the approximately 220 people who participated in the unsanctioned demonstration on October 19, releasing 42 with a warning, and sending 18 cases to administrative courts.

The authorities also detained at least 10 senior opposition party members ahead of the October 19 rally. Among them was a prominent opposition journalist, Seymur Hazi, who was detained on October 17 and sentenced the same day to 15 days of administrative detention. Hazi’s wife told Human Rights Watch that the circumstances of her husband’s detention and alleged offense were not clear. The family found out about the detention from the ministry’s hotline hours after he had been sentenced.

Police detained Karimli and several others shortly after he left his apartment at about 3 p.m. Police separated Karimli from the others and put him on a different bus. Karimli was released around 11 p.m. with several stitches on his head and multiple bruises on his face. He said in a media interview that several police officers had pulled his hair and banged his head against the side of the bus twice. Then he was transferred to the Khatai district police, where, he said, law enforcement personnel continued to abuse him, including one officer who used his foot to try to choke Karimli as he lay on the floor. He said police filmed the beating, demanding from him to state on camera that he would stop his criticism of the government. He was later transferred to the Interior Ministry’s hospital, where he received several stitches to his head, after which he was dropped off near his house.

In a statement on October 21, the prosecutor’s office claimed that Karimli resisted arrest, beat two police officers, and sustained the injuries to his forehead as he resisted arrest.

Police also detained Tofig Yagublu, a prominent opposition politician and former political prisoner, shortly before they took Karimli. Yagublu’s lawyer met with his client in custody on October 21. He told Human Rights Watch that Yagublu said that three or four policemen beat him repeatedly, while they ordered him to make a public statement “repenting” his actions and pledging to stop his political activity.

The lawyer said Yagublu had visible bruises on his right eye approximately two centimeters long and several swollen areas on his head, and had difficulty walking. The lawyer also said Yagublu said he was beaten on the shoulders and ribs when lying on the floor. Doctors at the detention center had noted wounds during the routine medical exam at the facility. On October 21, Yagublu was taken to the Interior Ministry's hospital for a medical exam, where doctors confirmed that he had bruised ribs.

Azerbaijani authorities have not yet issued a statement on Yagublu’s condition.

Some 60 people were arrested during the weekend protests in Baku, Azerbaijan. The authorities say most have been released, while 18 remain in custody and will face charges. 

© 2019 REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

Police also dispersed several dozen women’s rights activists who gathered in the city center on October 20 to protest domestic violence. In particular the protesters wanted to highlight the recent killing of Leyla Mammadova, whose husband stabbed her to death in public, in front of her children and passersby. Police cordoned off the protest area and rounded up several activists, putting them on a bus and releasing them shortly thereafter.

While the constitution of Azerbaijan stipulates that groups may peacefully assemble after simply notifying the relevant government body in advance, in practice authorities require that gatherings obtain a permit issued by local municipalities.

Earlier in October, Baku municipal authorities had denied the opposition protest organizers’ requests to hold the demonstrations in the city center, offering an alternative space in the Lokbatan suburb, an area about 20 kilometers away that is not easily accessible by public transportation. In response to the women’s rights activists, the authorities responded that the proposed protest site had many shops and restaurants and was therefore unsuitable for a rally.

On October 19, the Internal Affairs Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office issued a warning about holding unsanctioned rallies, saying that law enforcement agencies “will be authorized to prevent illegal actions and take serious measures, including criminal liability against those breaking the law.”

Azerbaijan effectively imposes a blanket ban on protests in the central areas of Baku, which violates Azerbaijan’s international obligations to respect and protect freedom of assembly and expression, Human Rights Watch said. As the European Court of Human Rights has warned, “[s]weeping measures of a preventive nature to suppress freedom of assembly and expression […] do a disservice to democracy and often endanger it.”

Azerbaijan is a party to a number of human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges the government to respect the right of assembly and to refrain in all circumstances from engaging in prohibited ill-treatment of protesters. The government also has a duty to investigate and remedy violations.

On October 19, the European Union issued a statement calling on Azerbaijani authorities to release all those detained and to ensure that freedom of assembly can be fully exercised in line with the country’s international obligations.

In her statement, the Council of Europe human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatović condemned “the disproportionate use of force,” urging the authorities to ensure “effective investigations into allegations of ill treatment.”

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly rapporteurs on Azerbaijan and the United States Embassy also expressed deep concerns about the police dispersal of the peaceful protests.

“Although the demonstration was unsanctioned, the police should not have used force to disperse protesters who posed no threat,” Gogia said. “Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right, and the Azerbaijani authorities are obligated to tolerate peaceful protests, even in Baku’s center.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

One of the signal achievements of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements and the UN peacekeeping mission that followed was the release of large numbers of political prisoners imprisoned by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Paris Agreements and the 1993 Cambodian constitution committed the government to international human rights standards and a non-return to the policies and practices of the past.

However, basic rights have been under constant attack by Hun Sen and the CPP throughout. Political killings, arbitrary arrests, and a politicized and corrupt judiciary have characterized the human rights situation in the country. In the past few years, the Cambodian government has returned to the routine practice of arresting and imprisoning individuals for their political statements or activities. Cambodia’s infamously sub-standard prisons now routinely hold political prisoners and pre-trial detainees for exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Activists, opposition members, and supporters, journalists and ordinary citizens expressing critical opinions on- and offline are regular targets of the government. Trials are acts of political theater, decided in advance, in violation of fair trial standards. In many cases Hun Sen has announced the results of trials before they take place.

Foreign governments and donors have been slow to react. At most they have issued ad hoc and ritualistic statements of concern. Now is the time for them to speak with one voice and demand that all political prisoners and detainees be immediately and unconditionally released and the harassment of persons for the peaceful expression of their opinions end.

 

An Batham


An Batham, 37
Released on August 28, 2018

An Batham is a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters, and activists of Cambodia’s dissolved opposition party, the CNRP, and was convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Batham of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards, and sentenced him to seven years in prison. On May 20, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Court of Appeal upheld both his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Batham was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Ban Samphy


Ban Samphy, 70
 

On May 13, 2018, Ban Samphy, former head of the CNRP in Siem Reap province, shared a post on Facebook that included a photo of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, and a photo of King Norodom Sihamoni, accompanied by a video clip of angry villagers affected by flooding. His post compared the king unfavorably to Cambodia’s former kings. On May 20, 2018, the police in Chikreng district, Kampong Kdey commune, Siem Reap province, arrested Samphy and questioned him. The investigating judge of the Siem Reap Provincial Court charged Samphy the same day with “insult of the king” (article 437 bis of Cambodia’s Criminal Code), which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison. He is currently in pre-trial detention.

 
 

Chao Veasna


Chao Veasna, 54
Sentenced: 5 years

Chao Veasna, an ethnic Khmer Krom, was a Poipet commune council deputy chief from the Candlelight Party (renamed from the Sam Rainsy Party after the law changed to ban the use of a person’s name in the name of a political party). During an anti-government protest outside the Poipet customs office in May 2015 at which Veasna was not present, military police fired warning shots to disperse protesters and seriously beat one protester. With commune elections scheduled for June 2017, on February 16, 2017, a Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court investigating judge questioned Veasna for four hours and sent him to Banteay Meanchey provincial prison in connection with the May 2015 protest. Veasna was charged with inciting the commission of a felony (articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code) and, as an accomplice, with intentional damage with aggravating circumstances (general aggravation and in relation to status of the victim) (articles 29, 410, 411 and 412), as well as with intentional damage with aggravating circumstances (using dangerous means and causing injury) (articles 413 and 414). On June 7, 2018, the Provincial Court convicted and sentenced Veasna to five years’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a total of approximately US$15,000 for damages to the customs office building and several cars.

 
 

Chhun Sithi


Chhun Sithi
Sentenced: 1 year

Chhun Sithi, a CNRP commune councilor in Stung Kach commune, Pailin province, was arrested on October 24, 2017, a day after he posted a video clip on social media with a message to Prime Minister Hun Sen stating that he would not defect to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) even if the main opposition party, the CNRP, was dissolved or he was stripped of his position. On March 23, 2018, the Pailin Provincial Court convicted him of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and insulting a public official (article 502). The court sentenced him to one year in prison with a fine of eight million riels (US$2,000).

 
 

Hin Van Sreypov


Heng Leakhena, 37
Sentenced: 1 year

Heng Leakhena (also known as Hin Van Sreypov), a former CNRP member, was arrested on July 12, 2017, at a local bus station after she had posted on Facebook a video in which she accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of ordering the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley. On January 11, 2018, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced her to one-year in prison and a one million riel fine (US$250).

 
 

Horn Sophanny


Horn Sophanny, 25
Sentenced: 2 years

Venerable Horn Sophanny is an activist member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, a group led by monk But Buntenh. Authorities arrested and defrocked Sophanny on June 21, 2017. He was charged with illegal possession of a weapon after he had posted a photo of himself on social media posing with a toy gun, accompanied by a statement that he needed a gun to protect himself from what he called Prime Minister Hun Sen’s upcoming “civil war” during the 2018 elections. On December 19, 2017, the Battambang Provincial Court convicted Sophanny of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two years in prison.

 
 

Ismail Pin Osman


Ismail Pin Osman, 45
 

Ismail Pin Osman was a reserve National Assembly candidate for the CNRP in Kampong Cham province in the 2013 national election. He is a member of the ethnic Cham Muslim community. He was arrested by anti-trafficking police in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on February 9, 2018, after returning from Thailand, where he had fled under pressure from authorities to defect to the ruling CPP. He is currently in pre-trial detention on charges of unlawfully removing female workers for cross-border transfer (article 11 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation). If convicted, he faces from 7 to 15 years in prison.

 
 

Ke Khim


Ke Khim, 35
Released on August 28, 2018

Ke Khim is a CNRP supporter. He is one of the 14 members of Cambodia’s now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced him to seven years in prison for participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code) in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. After hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal ruled on May 20 to uphold both the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Khim was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Kem Sokha


Kem Sokha, 65
Released on bail on September 10, 2018, but placed under house arrest

Kem Sokha, leader of the now dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and a member of the National Assembly, was arrested around midnight on September 3, 2017 at his house in Phnom Penh. Eight Prime Minister bodyguard unit officers led a contingent of more than 100 police to carry out the arrest. In a highly unusual move, authorities immediately sent him to the remote Trapeang Phlong prison (Correctional Center 3), in Tbaung Khmom province near the border with Vietnam. On the basis of a false allegation that he had committed a crime in flagrante delicto (caught in the act of committing a crime), the National Assembly stripped him of his parliamentary immunity.

On September 5, 2017, prosecutors charged him with conspiring with a foreign power (article 443 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, he faces 15-30 years in prison. Sokha’s arrest came after Hun Sen accused him of plotting to topple the government with support from the United States based on a highly edited videotape of a speech Sokha gave in Australia in 2013. On May 26, 2018, the court summoned eight individuals – including members of nongovernmental organizations – to appear for questioning as witnesses in Sokha’s case.

On April 19, 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its Opinion No. 9/2018 declared Kem Sokha’s detention “arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

Sokha had been previously convicted in 2016 on politically motivated charges for failure to appear as a witness against two CNRP parliamentary members detained in a fabricated prostitution case. The court sentenced him to five months in prison, but he remained under de facto house arrest, surrounded by CNRP supporters and police outside CNRP headquarters until December 2016, when he received a royal pardon.

On September 10, 2018, Sokha was released from prison and placed under house arrest. The court order specifically bans Sokha from meeting with “former officials of the Cambodian National Rescue Party… foreigners, especially those who may be involved in this case” and orders him to “refrain from a political meeting or other political activities…” Treason charges remain in force. If Sokha conducts any political activities or misses a court appearance he will be sent back to prison.

 
 

Khin Chamreun


Khin Chamreun, 34
Released on August 28, 2018

Khin Chamreun is a CNRP Phnom Penh youth chief. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the dissolved CNRP who were convicted on politically motivated insurrection charges for helping lead a CNRP-led protest in July 2014. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Chamreun in July 2015 of participating in and leading an “insurrectionary” movement (articles 456, 457, and 459 of the Criminal Code) in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. The court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. In April 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld both his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Chamreun was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Kim Sok


Kim Sok, 37
Released on August 17, 2018, after serving his prison sentence

Kim Sok, a political commentator, was arrested on February 17, 2017, and charged with criminal defamation and incitement based on a complaint filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The charges stemmed from an interview he gave to Radio Free Asia in which he alluded to the alleged involvement of the ruling CPP in the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley in July 2016. On August 10, 2017, a court convicted Sok of defamation (article 305 of the Criminal Code) and inciting the commission of a felony (articles 494 and 495) and sentenced him to 18 months in prison and a fine of 8 million riels (US$2,000) to be paid to the government and 800 million riels ($200,000) in damages to be paid to the CPP. On November 17, 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld both his conviction and sentence. On July 2, 2018, the Supreme Court also upheld the verdict. A second defamation complaint filed by Hun Sen is pending at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

On August 17, 2018, Kim Sok was released after serving his sentence. After his release Kim Sok said he would continue to speak out against the government and in favor of democracy. On August 28, a Phnom Penh judge issued a summons for Kim Sok to appear on September 14 on second charges of defamation and incitement. Kim Sok fled Cambodia to avoid arrest and reportedly because of threats made to his young daughter. In October 2018, Finland granted him asylum.

 
 

Meach Sovannara


Meach Sovannara, 47
Released on August 28, 2018

Meach Sovannara was a CNRP candidate for parliament from Banteay Meanchey province and is a dual Cambodian and US national. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of Cambodia’s now-dissolved opposition CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges connected to July 2014 protests in Phnom Penh. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Sovannara of participating in and leading an insurrectionary movement (articles 456, 457, and 459 of the criminal code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. The court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on May 20, 2018.

On March 26, 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen scolded officials of Correctional Center 1 for allegedly allowing Sovannara to use a mobile phone in prison and ordered them to remove it “immediately,” while telling Sovannara he would never “come out.”

On August 28, 2018, Sovannara was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Neang Sokhun


Neang Sokhun, 34
Released on August 28, 2018

Neang Sokhun is a CNRP Chhbar Ampov district youth leader. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges in connection with July 2014 protests led by the CNRP. The Phnom Penh Municipal court convicted Sokhun on July 21, 2015, on charges of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the criminal code). The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on May 20, 2018.

On August 28, 2018, Sokhun was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Oeur Narith


Oeur Narith, 38
Released on August 28, 2018

Oeur Narith is one of the 14 CNRP officials, supporters and activists convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges in connection with a CNRP-led protest in July 2014 in Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Narith, a CNRP public affairs officer, of participating in and leading an insurrectionary movement (articles 456, 457, and 459 of the criminal code), in a trial that violated the defendant’s fair trial rights and sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment. The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence in a ruling released on May 20, 2018.

On August 28, 2018, Narith was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Ouk Pich Samnang


Ouk Pich Samnang, 54
Released on August 28, 2018

Ouk Pich Samnang is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted on politically motivated insurrection charges in connection with a CNRP-led protest in July 2014. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found him guilty of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Both the conviction and prison sentence were upheld by the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on May 20, 2018.

Authorities harassed Samnang in a separate case related to an October 2014 protest outside Hun Sen’s house. A farming community from Preah Vihear province protested and demanded that the government help solve their land dispute. On September 10, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Samnang of committing intentional violence and obstructing authorities despite the prosecutors’ failure to present evidence of wrongdoing. The judge sentenced him to two years in prison and ordered him to pay 10 million riels (US$2,500) in damages to pay for medical treatment of injured security guards and damaged Daun Penh district security equipment. On July 20, 2016, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Samnang was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Roeun Chetra


Roeun Chetra, 34
Released on August 28, 2018

Roeun Chetra is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved opposition CNRP who was convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. Authorities arrested Chetra, on August 4, 2015. On June 13, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted him of participation in an insurrectionary movement (article 457 of the Criminal Code), intentional acts of violence (article 218) and inciting the commission of a felony (article 495), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment.

On August 28, 2018, Chetra was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

San Kimheng


San Kimheng, 31
Released on August 28, 2018

San Kimheng is a CNRP district youth leader from Tuol Kork in Phnom Penh. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Kimheng of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards and sentenced him to seven years in prison. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld both the conviction and prison sentence on May 20.

On August 28, 2018, Kimheng was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

San Seihak


San Seihak, 31
Recently Released

San Seikhak is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. Along with the others, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Seikhak on July 21, 2015, of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. The court sentenced Seikhak to seven years in prison. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on May 20 upheld both the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Seikhak was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Sourn Serey Ratha


Sourn Serey Ratha, 44
Released on August 23, 2018

Sourn Serey Ratha, a dual Cambodian-US citizen, is the founder and president of the Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM) and later the Khmer Power Party (KPP). He was arrested on August 13, 2017 for criticizing the deployment of Cambodian troops to the Lao border during a trip by Prime Minister Hun Sen to Laos in mid-2017 to settle a border dispute between the two countries. On August 14, authorities charged Ratha with inciting military personnel to disobedience (article 471 of the Criminal Code), demoralizing the army (article 472) and inciting the commission of a felony (articles 494). On August 25, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Ratha and sentenced him to five years in prison and fined him 10 million riels (US$2,500). On October 12, 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction. On May 18, 2018, the Supreme Court also did.

The government has labelled Ratha’s KPPM party a terrorist group. While in self-imposed exile in 2015, a court convicted Ratha in absentia for endangering government institutions or violating the integrity of the national territory (article 453) and of using force or violence to deter eligible voters from voting (article 124 of the Law on Election of Members of the National Assembly). The court sentenced him to seven years in prison. Upon Hun Sen’s request, King Sihamoni pardoned Ratha on July 10, 2015, thereby allowing him to return to Cambodia without fear of imprisonment. In March 2015, the Ministry of Interior gave permission to Ratha to form a political party to contest in the elections: Ratha formed the Khmer Power Party.

In December 2015, Ratha filed a complaint against Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for defamation and incitement because the minister had failed to write an official apology letter, recanting his allegation that his KPP party had committed terrorist acts.

On May 15, 2018, Ratha posted a letter on his Facebook page, apologizing to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Armed Forces and seeking a pardon. He was released on August 23, 2018 after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni based on a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

 
 

Sum Puthy


Sum Puthy, 50
Released on August 28, 2018

Sum Puthy is a CNRP Chhbar Ampov district council member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of Cambodia’s now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. With the others, Puthy was tried on July 21, 2015 in a judicial process that did not meet international fair trial standards. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Puthy of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Court of Appeal on May 20 upheld both his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Puthy was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Tep Narin


Tep Narin, 31
Released on August 28, 2018

Tep Narin is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of Cambodia’s now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred during a July 2014 CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, Narin was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of participating in an “insurrectionary” movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a speedy trial that violated the defendant’s fair trial rights and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld on May 20 both the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Narin was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Tep Vanny


Tep Vanny, 36
Released on August 20, 2018, but convicted four days later in a separate case – enforcement of that suspended prison sentence is pending appeal

Tep Vanny is a prominent community land rights activist in Phnom Penh and the recipient of the 2013 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Vanny long opposed the government’s now completed plan to drain Boeung Kak lake for high-end residences and commercial properties, which the city rented to Shukaku Inc., a private company led by ruling CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin. Authorities arrested her on August 15, 2016, during a peaceful protest. On August 22, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Vanny and Bov Sophea, a fellow community member, of insulting a public official (article 502 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced them both to the six days they had already served in pre-trial detention.

The authorities then restarted long-dormant politically motivated charges against Vanny. On September 19, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Vanny and three other Boeung Kak lake community members (Kong Chantha, Bo Chhorvy, and Heng Mom) for obstructing a public official with aggravating circumstances and insulting a public official (articles 502 and 504) and sentenced them to six months in prison. The charges stemmed from their participation in a protest in November 2011 outside the Phnom Penh municipality office, where they demanded justice in the Boeung Kak land dispute. On February 23, 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld their conviction and prison sentence. On December 8, 2017, the Supreme Court agreed, though the Supreme Court’s presiding judge left the enforcement of the prison sentence to the discretion of the prosecutor, so none of the four women have yet served their prison sentence.

For Vanny’s participation in a protest outside Hun Sen’s house in March 2013, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her on February 23, 2017 of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances (article 218) and sentenced her to two and a half years in prison and a fine of 5 million riels (approximately US$1,250). The court also ordered Vanny to pay compensation of 9 million riels (approximately $2,250) to two security guards, the plaintiffs who alleged injury. The court denied consideration of video evidence showing that the two security guards were responsible for the violence, in a trial that otherwise did not meet international fair trial standards. On August 8, 2017, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld the ruling, as did the Supreme Court on February 8, 2018.

On August 23, 2018, Tep Vanny was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni. Four days later, on August 27, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her and five fellow community members of making death threats related to a community dispute. Although the complainant retracted her complaint, the prosecutor and investigating judge continued to pursue the case. The court sentenced all six to suspended six-month prison sentences; the suspension is conditional for five years, during which the sentence may be enforced against any of the defendants who are found guilty of having committed a crime.

 
 

Um Sam An


Um Sam An, 44
Released on August 25, 2018

Um Sam An is a dual US-Cambodian national and a former Member of Parliament of the now-dissolved CNRP. In May 2015, Sam An left Cambodia for the United States to seek evidence that would substantiate his allegations that Prime Minister Hun Sen had used the wrong maps to demarcate the Cambodia-Vietnam border. He was arrested on his return to Cambodia on April 11, 2016, on the basis of a post he made on Facebook that included his findings on the politically contentious dispute. Although covered by parliamentary immunity, prosecutors used a loophole in the law – permitting prosecutions for crimes in flagrante delicto (caught in the act), to bring him to trial. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Sam An on October 10, 2016 of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and inciting racial discrimination (article 496) and sentenced him to two and a half years in prison. The court also fined him 4 million riels (US$1000). On October 27, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and prison sentence. After further appeals, the Supreme Court again upheld the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 25, 2018, Sam An was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Uon Chhin


Uon Chhin, 49
Released on bail August 21, 2018

Uon Chhin, a former Radio Free Asia (RFA) cameraman, was arrested on November 14, 2017, in Phnom Penh, on the same day as his colleague Yeang Sothearin. The arrests occurred two months after the RFA shut down its Cambodia operations, alleging government harassment of its reporters. Prosecutors filed baseless espionage charges, accusing Chhin and Sothearin of illegally setting up a broadcast studio with the purpose of continuing to file news reports for RFA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. On November 18, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court formally charged Chhin with supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to Cambodia’s national defense (article 445 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, he faces between 7 to 15 years in prison. The court has repeatedly denied his bail requests.

In March 2018, prosecutors brought unfounded charges against Chhin and Sothearin that they produced pornography in violation of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. If convicted of these additional charges, they face 16 years in prison.

While Chhin was released on August 21, 2018, the charges against him were not dropped.

 
 

Yeang Sothearin


Yeang Sothearin, 35
Released on bail August 21, 2018

Yeang Sothearin (also known as Yeang Socheameta), Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) former Phnom Penh bureau office manager and a news editor, was arrested on November 14, 2017, in Phnom Penh on the same day as his colleague Uon Chhin. The arrests occurred two months after the RFA shut down its Cambodia operations, alleging government harassment of its reporters. Prosecutors filed baseless espionage charges, accusing Sothearin and Chhin of illegally setting up a broadcast studio with the purpose of continuing to file news reports for RFA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Sothearin on November 18, 2017, with supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to Cambodia’s national defense (article 445 of the Criminal Code). He faces 7 to 15 years in prison if convicted and has been repeatedly denied bail since his arrest.

In March 2018, prosecutors brought unfounded charges against Chhin and Sothearin that they produced pornography in violation of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. If convicted of these additional charges, they face 16 years in prison.

While Sothearin was released on August 21, 2018, the charges against him were not dropped.

 
 

Yea Thong


Yea Thong, 27
Released on August 28, 2018

Yea Thong is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges connected to events during a CNRP-led protest in July 2014. Authorities arrested him on August 4, 2015. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted him on June 13, 2016, on charges of participation in an insurrectionary movement (article 457 of the Criminal Code), intentional acts of violence (article 218) and inciting the commission of a felony (article 495) and sentenced him to seven years in prison after a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards.

On August 28, 2018, Thong was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Yun Kimhour


Yun Kimhour, 29
Released on August 28, 2018

Yun Kimhour is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges connected to a July 2014 CNRP-led protest. Authorities arrested him on August 4, 2015. On June 13, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Kimhour of participating in an insurrectionary movement (article 457 of the Criminal Code), intentional acts of violence (article 218), and inciting the commission of a felony (article 495) and sentenced to seven years in prison. The trial failed to meet international fair trial standards.

On August 28, 2018, Kimhour was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Sam Sokha


Sam Sokha, 38
Sentenced: 2 years

Sam Sokha, a labor and opposition activist, was seen in an April 2017 video throwing her shoe at a CPP campaign billboard that contained photos of Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin. The 13-second video went viral on social media.

Sokha fled to Thailand after government called for her arrest. She received refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On January 25, 2018, the Kampong Speu Provincial Court convicted her in absentia of insulting a public official and incitement to discriminate (articles 494, 496 and 502 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced her to two years in prison and a fine of 5 million riels (US$1,250).

Despite her protected status as a refugee, Thai authorities arrested her and, over UNHCR and diplomatic objections, forcibly returned her to Cambodia on February 8, 2018. On February 9, Cambodian officials transferred her to Kampong Speu provincial prison to start serving her sentence.

Sokha sought a retrial, demanding the opportunity to be present in court to defend herself. However, in March the Kampong Speu Provincial Court upheld her conviction and sentence.

 
 

Kheang Navy


Kheang Navy, 50
 

Kheang Navy, a primary school headteacher in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province, was arrested on May 13, 2018. Police questioned him for hours without a lawyer present. He remains in pre-trial detention and faces 1-5 five years in prison, a large fine for a May 12, 2018 social media post blaming the king and the Cambodian royal family for the 2017 dissolution of Cambodia’s main opposition party, the CNRP, as well as for the “loss of Khmer land.” Navy allegedly posted the comment on the Facebook page of a Kampong Thom government official who had attended a celebration of King Norodom Sihamoni’s birthday in Kampong Thom province. Under article 437 bis, the new lese majeste law, prosecutors may bring a criminal lawsuit on behalf of the monarchy against anyone deemed to have insulted the royal family.

 
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Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The precipitous decline in respect for human rights in Cambodia in recent years continued with a wave of politically motivated arrests and detentions in 2019. Authorities have detained and often prosecuted people for expressing views critical of the government, taking part in peaceful activism or human rights work, or associating with members of the former opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) by “eating Khmer noodles.”  The dissolution of the CNRP by the government-controlled Supreme Court prior to the July 2018 elections assured that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) would win all 125 seats in the national parliament, effectively making Cambodia a one-party state.

A series of repressive laws and amendments to existing laws adopted in recent years have provided the authorities with legal tools to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals for the expression of their opinions, including online, associating with others in groups, or conducting peaceful public assemblies.

Unlike after previous elections in 2008 and 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s threatening political rhetoric towards dissidents and political opponents has not cooled off one year later. With the help of its politicized and corrupt judiciary, the Cambodian government stepped up its harassment of former CNRP officials and activists. Kem Sokha, the CNRP leader, remains under indefinite house arrest linked to fabricated treason charges. Sam Rainsy and other senior CNRP leaders are in self-imposed exile, and face arrest warrants if they return.  Sam Rainsy’s announcement that he and other CNRP exiles would return to Cambodia in November has prompted the government to allege the CNRP is plotting a coup. Since the CNRP announcement on August 16, the government has threatened charges against more than 50 former CNRP members and detained at least 30 of them.

Civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and ordinary citizens expressing critical opinions online and offline are regular targets of the government. Trials are conducted in complete disregard of international fair trial standards, with government-controlled judges reaching verdicts in advance of the trials.

Concerned governments and donors should respond to the Cambodian government’s widespread human rights violations by strengthening public criticism and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and others held for the peaceful exercise of their basic rights.

 

Chao Veasna


Chao Veasna, 54
Sentenced: 5 years

Chao Veasna, an ethnic Khmer Krom, was a Poipet commune council deputy chief from the Candlelight Party (renamed from the Sam Rainsy Party after the law changed to ban the use of a person’s name in the name of a political party). During an anti-government protest outside the Poipet customs office in May 2015 at which Veasna was not present, military police fired warning shots to disperse protesters and seriously beat one protester. With commune elections scheduled for June 2017, on February 16, 2017, a Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court investigating judge questioned Veasna for four hours and sent him to Banteay Meanchey provincial prison in connection with the May 2015 protest. Veasna was charged with inciting the commission of a felony (articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code) and, as an accomplice, with intentional damage with aggravating circumstances (general aggravation and in relation to status of the victim) (articles 29, 410, 411 and 412), as well as with intentional damage with aggravating circumstances (using dangerous means and causing injury) (articles 413 and 414). On June 7, 2018, the Provincial Court convicted and sentenced Veasna to five years’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a total of approximately US$15,000 for damages to the customs office building and several cars.

 
 

Ismail Pin Osman


Ismail Pin Osman, 45
 

Ismail Pin Osman was a reserve National Assembly candidate for the CNRP in Kampong Cham province in the 2013 national election. He is a member of the ethnic Cham Muslim community. He was arrested by anti-trafficking police in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on February 9, 2018, after returning from Thailand, where he had fled under pressure from authorities to defect to the ruling CPP. He is currently in pre-trial detention on charges of unlawfully removing female workers for cross-border transfer (article 11 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation). If convicted, he faces from 7 to 15 years in prison.

 
 

Kem Sokha


Kem Sokha, 65
Released on bail on September 10, 2018, but placed under house arrest

Kem Sokha, leader of the now dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and a member of the National Assembly, was arrested around midnight on September 3, 2017 at his house in Phnom Penh. Eight Prime Minister bodyguard unit officers led a contingent of more than 100 police to carry out the arrest. In a highly unusual move, authorities immediately sent him to the remote Trapeang Phlong prison (Correctional Center 3), in Tbaung Khmom province near the border with Vietnam. On the basis of a false allegation that he had committed a crime in flagrante delicto (caught in the act of committing a crime), the National Assembly stripped him of his parliamentary immunity.

On September 5, 2017, prosecutors charged him with conspiring with a foreign power (article 443 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, he faces 15-30 years in prison. Sokha’s arrest came after Hun Sen accused him of plotting to topple the government with support from the United States based on a highly edited videotape of a speech Sokha gave in Australia in 2013. On May 26, 2018, the court summoned eight individuals – including members of nongovernmental organizations – to appear for questioning as witnesses in Sokha’s case.

On April 19, 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its Opinion No. 9/2018 declared Kem Sokha’s detention “arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”

Sokha had been previously convicted in 2016 on politically motivated charges for failure to appear as a witness against two CNRP parliamentary members detained in a fabricated prostitution case. The court sentenced him to five months in prison, but he remained under de facto house arrest, surrounded by CNRP supporters and police outside CNRP headquarters until December 2016, when he received a royal pardon.

On September 10, 2018, Sokha was released from prison and placed under house arrest. The court order specifically bans Sokha from meeting with “former officials of the Cambodian National Rescue Party… foreigners, especially those who may be involved in this case” and orders him to “refrain from a political meeting or other political activities…” Treason charges remain in force. If Sokha conducts any political activities or misses a court appearance he will be sent back to prison.

On March 3, 2019, Kem Sokha had been detained for 18-months. Under Cambodian law, the investigating judge has 18 months to determine whether to release a detained person or to charge and bring them to trial.

On March 19, the investigating judge rejected Sokha’s renewed request to drop the charges against him. The judge provided no update or additional information about the completion of his investigation and whether the case would be sent to trial.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly pressed the Cambodian government to immediately and unconditionally release Kem Sokha.

 
 

Sam Sokha


Sam Sokha, 38
Sentenced: 2 years

Sam Sokha, a labor and opposition activist, was seen in an April 2017 video throwing her shoe at a CPP campaign billboard that contained photos of Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin. The 13-second video went viral on social media.

Sokha fled to Thailand after government called for her arrest. She received refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On January 25, 2018, the Kampong Speu Provincial Court convicted her in absentia of insulting a public official and incitement to discriminate (articles 494, 496 and 502 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced her to two years in prison and a fine of 5 million riels (US$1,250).

Despite her protected status as a refugee, Thai authorities arrested her and, over UNHCR and diplomatic objections, forcibly returned her to Cambodia on February 8, 2018. On February 9, Cambodian officials transferred her to Kampong Speu provincial prison to start serving her sentence.

Sokha filed a motion to seek a retrial in which she would be present, basing her argument on the provisions of article 365 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Kampong Speu provincial court heard her motion on March 15, 2018, and upheld her conviction and prison sentence. She appealed that decision and on May 7, 2019, the Phnom Penh Appeals Court held a hearing in which Sokha and her lawyers were present to argue their case. On May 31,the court of appeal upheld the verdict.

In the meantime, in relation to comments Sokha made on Facebook during the time she sought refuge in Bangkok, a Phnom Penh prosecutor pursued additional charges of incitement to discriminate and public insult under articles 307, 494 and 496 of the Criminal Code. The charges arose in connection with a Kampong Speu provincial police commissariat report alleging Sokha had insulted Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany. The Kampong Speu provincial court heard the case on December 6, 2018. On January 9, 2019, the court sentenced her to an additional two years in prison, accompanied by a fine of 5 million riel (US$1,250). She appealed this decision, and the Phnom Penh appeal court scheduled a hearing for May 6. However, for some unexplained reason, prison officials failed to transport Sokha to court, leading the judge to postpone her hearing. On May 31, the hearing took place with Sokha and her lawyers present. On June 21, the Phnom Penh appellate court upheld the verdict.

 
 

Ieng Cholsa


Ieng Cholsa, 26*
 

On June 14, 2018, the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Cybercrime Department arrested Ieng Cholsa in Boeung Keng Kang II commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. The charges involved insulting King Sihamoni in three Facebook posts dated June 13 and using drugs. According to local media, in his posts Cholsa called the monarch “useless” and a “dog king” and added three photos: a 500 Cambodian riel note, which features King Sihamoni’s portrait; a photo of drugs; and a shot of the king and the king’s mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. On June 18, 2018, the investigating judge charged him with insulting the king and making a death threat (article 233 of the Criminal Code). On December 18, 2018, the Phnom Penh municipal court tried his case but in violation of fair trial rights, neither Cholsa nor his lawyer were present. On January 9, 2019, a Cambodian court convicted Cholsa of lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) under article 437bis of Cambodia’s Criminal Code and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of five million riel ($1,250).

 
 

Kong Mas


Kong Mas, 37
 

On January 16, 2019, police arrested Kong Meas, a youth member of the CNRP in Svay Rieng province, after he posted on Facebook that the EU was planning to impose a tariff on Cambodian rice. On January 19, the investigating judge sent him to pre-trial detention after charging him with public insult and incitement to commit a felony (articles 307 and 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code). These are vague legal provisions commonly used by the authorities to criminalize and silence their critics. According to his lawyer, police took Kong Mas into custody without a court summons, an action that violates his due process rights under Cambodian criminal procedures. Kong Mas is a known government critic who in the past helped with the distribution of fliers produced by acting head of the CNRP Sam Rainsy, currently in exile. On May 6, 2019, the Supreme Court heard the defense lawyer’s arguments to release Kong Mas on bail and on May 10, denied the request.

 
 

Kong Raya


Kong Raya, 28
 

On July 9, 2019, Phnom Penh police arrested a student activist, Kong Raya, his wife, sister, and brother-in-law for printing T-shirts in memory of prominent political commentator Kem Ley, and for selling them on Facebook. On July 10, 2016, Kem Ley had been fatally shot in broad daylight at a gas station in central Phnom Penh. While authorities released Raya’s family members after being forced to sign a “confession” that they would not repeat the act – a requirement that Cambodian authorities frequently impose on released activists – the authorities held Raya overnight at the Phnom Penh police station. On July 11, the Phnom Penh court charged Raya with incitement and sent him to pretrial detention at Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1 (CC1). On August 13, 2019, the Phnom Penh court denied Raya bail.

On July 10, a group of Kem Ley supporters gathered at the Caltex gas station where Kem Ley had been killed in 2016. About 50 members of various security forces surrounded them and prevented them from laying floral wreaths or drinking coffee at the station while wearing T-shirts depicting Kem Ley. Those wearing shirts were required to take them off or place other garments over them.

In total, authorities detained nine people for marking the third anniversary of Kem Ley’s death.

In August 2015, Raya had been convicted of “incitement to commit a felony” for a Facebook post in which he called for a so-called “color revolution” – which the Cambodian government uses as a pretext to silence its critics – and sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

 
 

Mai Hongsreang


Mai Hongsreang, 38
 

On July 30, 2019 at 8 a.m., Phnom Penh police arrested Mai Hongsreang, a former member of the CNRP in Preah Sihanouk province. Hongsreang had fled to Thailand in May 2019 fearing his arrest; shortly after his return police arrested him. Hongsreang had posted a comment on Facebook about the infighting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng. In a more recent Facebook post he commented on Hun Sen’s health condition stating: “If you are sick, be true to yourself. When I am sick I still smile and accept the truth. Don’t get away from national duties and take photos with your grandchild happily. Is my nation not as worthy as your grandchild? You are surviving because you plunder the nation,” Before his arrest, he posted how he had escaped the police. The Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Cybercrime Department questioned Hongsreang before he appeared before the Phnom Penh municipal court, which charged him with incitement to commit a felony and insult (articles 307 and 495 of Cambodia’s penal code) and ordered his pre-trial detention.

In the midst of a Cambodian government crackdown on the opposition ahead of July 2018 general elections, hundreds of opposition members fled abroad out of fear of arbitrary arrest. From January to June 2019 over 150 CNRP activists and members were summoned to court or police stations for questioning.

On September 26, 2019, the Phnom Penh municipal court conducted a one-day trial and on October 10, issued a guilty verdict, convicting Hongsreang of “incitement to commit a felony” (article 495 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

 
 

Men Voeun


Men Voeun, 34
 

On March 31, 2018, the Serei Sophoan district police chief, accompanied by six officers, arrested Men Voeun, a Cambodian migrant worker just returned from Thailand, in Kampong Svay commune, Serei Sophoan district, Banteay Meanchey province. Police charged him for allegedly posting a video clip in February 2016 to Facebook that insulted Prime Minister Hun Sen. Banteay Meanchey provincial court investigating judge charged Men with public defamation and incitement to commit a felony (articles 307 and 495 of the Criminal Code) and ordered his pre-trial detention. He is being held in Banteay Meanchey provincial prison.

 
 

Chan Sophal


Chan Sophal
 

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a group of mixed commune, district and provincial police officers arrested former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, Chan Sophal. The same evening, police officers arrested Noeun Nim, another former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP, and Touch Sam Ath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province. The men are currently being held at Pursat provincial prison. Authorities allege the two men were involved in “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging.

On June 13, 2019, police arrested Nem Nath, another former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP. And on June 16, police arrested Prak Ren, a former elected Pramaoy commune council member for the CNRP, and Mong Phy, a former elected Ou Saom commune council member for the CNRP. Within 72 hours of their respective arrests, the Pursat provincial court charged all six with “illegal clearing of state land” (article 94 of Cambodia’s Forestry Law 2002).

None of these six former local CNRP officials owns land in the area they are accused to have illegally cleared land.  Chan Sophal was known to hold dinners at his house, bringing together members of the opposition, including the five.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has increased harassment of the opposition in 2019, with over 147 police or court summons issued against members and supporters of the CNRP based on allegations that they violated the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. Many former local members and supporters continue to be vocal on social media, expressing support for leading figures of the CNRP who are currently in exile.

 
 

Toun Sam Ath


Toun Sam Ath
 

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a group of mixed commune, district and provincial police officers arrested former Touch Sam Ath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat. The same evening, police officers arrested province Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, Chan Sophal, and Noeun Nim, another former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP. After Sam Ath’s arrest, the officers sent him to the Bromuy commune health center due to health issues. The men are currently being held at Pursat provincial prison. Authorities allege the two men were involved in “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging.

On June 13, 2019, police arrested Nem Nath, another former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP. And on June 16, police arrested Prak Ren, a former elected Pramaoy commune council member for the CNRP, and Mong Phy, a former elected Ou Saom commune council member for the CNRP. Within 72 hours of their respective arrests, the Pursat provincial court charged all six with “illegal clearing of state land” (article 94 of Cambodia’s Forestry Law 2002).

None of these six former local CNRP officials owns land in the area they are accused to have illegally cleared land.  Chan Sophal was known to hold dinners at his house, bringing together members of the opposition, including the five.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has increased harassment of the opposition in 2019, with over 147 police or court summons issued against members and supporters of the CNRP based on allegations that they violated the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. Many former local members and supporters continue to be vocal on social media, expressing support for leading figures of the CNRP who are currently in exile.

 
 

Nem Nath


Nem Nath
 

On June 13, 2019, police arrested Nem Nath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP. On June 16, police arrested Prak Ren, a former elected Pramaoy commune council member for the CNRP, and Mong Phy, a former elected Ou Saom commune council member for the CNRP. Within 72 hours of their respective arrests, the Pursat provincial court charged all six with “illegal clearing of state land” (article 94 of Cambodia’s Forestry Law 2002). 

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a group of mixed commune, district and provincial police officers arrested former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, Chan Sophal. The same evening, police officers arrested Touch Sam Ath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, and Noeun Nim, another former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP. The men are currently being held at Pursat provincial prison. Authorities allege the two men were involved in “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging.

According to his relatives, Nem Nath was accused by authorities of inciting villagers to commit crimes. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) alleged  that these arrests were an apparent attempt to intimidate opposition activists. LICADHO also said that Nem Nath’s arrest "was definitely politically motivated because Nem Nath was not involved in any illegal encroachment on public land. The activist is with the CNRP and he refused to defect to the [Cambodian People’s Party] CPP.”

None of these six former local CNRP officials owns land in the area they are accused to have illegally cleared land.  Chan Sophal was known to hold dinners at his house, bringing together members of the opposition, including the five.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has increased harassment of the opposition in 2019, with over 147 police or court summons issued against members and supporters of the CNRP based on allegations that they violated the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. Many former local members and supporters continue to be vocal on social media, expressing support for leading figures of the CNRP who are currently in exile.

 
 

Prak Ren


Prak Ren
 

On June 16, 2019, police arrested Prak Ren, a former elected Pramaoy commune council member for the CNRP. The same day, police arrested Mong Phy, a former elected Ou Saom commune council member for the CNRP. On June 16, police arrested Nem Nath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP. Within 72 hours of their respective arrests, the Pursat provincial court charged all six with “illegal clearing of state land” (article 94 of Cambodia’s Forestry Law 2002).

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a group of mixed commune, district and provincial police officers arrested former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, Chan Sophal. The same evening, police officers arrested Touch Sam Ath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, and Noeun Nim, another former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP. The men are currently being held at Pursat provincial prison. Authorities allege the two men were involved in “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging.

According to his relatives, Nem Nath was accused by authorities of inciting villagers to commit crimes. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) alleged  that these arrests were an apparent attempt to intimidate opposition activists. LICADHO also said that Nem Nath’s arrest "was definitely politically motivated because Nem Nath was not involved in any illegal encroachment on public land. The activist is with the CNRP and he refused to defect to the [Cambodian People’s Party] CPP.”

None of these six former local CNRP officials owns land in the area they are accused to have illegally cleared land.  Chan Sophal was known to hold dinners at his house, bringing together members of the opposition, including the five.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has increased harassment of the opposition in 2019, with over 147 police or court summons issued against members and supporters of the CNRP based on allegations that they violated the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. Many former local members and supporters continue to be vocal on social media, expressing support for leading figures of the CNRP who are currently in exile.

 
 

Noeun Nim


Noeun Nim
 

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a group of mixed commune, district and provincial police officers arrested Noeun Nim, a former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP. The same evening, police officers arrested former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, Chan Sophal, and Touch Sam Ath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province. The men are currently being held at Pursat provincial prison. Authorities allege the two men were involved in “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging.

On June 13, 2019, police arrested Nem Nath, another former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP. And on June 16, police arrested Prak Ren, a former elected Pramaoy commune council member for the CNRP, and Mong Phy, a former elected Ou Saom commune council member for the CNRP. Within 72 hours of their respective arrests, the Pursat provincial court charged all six with “illegal clearing of state land” (article 94 of Cambodia’s Forestry Law 2002).

None of these six former local CNRP officials owns land in the area they are accused to have illegally cleared land.  Chan Sophal was known to hold dinners at his house, bringing together members of the opposition, including the five.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has increased harassment of the opposition in 2019, with over 147 police or court summons issued against members and supporters of the CNRP based on allegations that they violated the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. Many former local members and supporters continue to be vocal on social media, expressing support for leading figures of the CNRP who are currently in exile.

 
 

Mong Phy


Mong Phy
 

On June 16, 2019, police arrested Mong Phy, a former elected Ou Saom commune council member for the CNRP. The same day, police arrested Prak Ren, a former elected Pramaoy commune council member for the CNRP. On June 13, police arrested Nem Nath, another former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP. Within 72 hours of their respective arrests, the Pursat provincial court charged all six with “illegal clearing of state land” (article 94 of Cambodia’s Forestry Law 2002).

On the evening of May 28, 2019, a group of mixed commune, district and provincial police officers arrested former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, Chan Sophal. The same evening, police officers arrested Touch Sam Ath, a former Pramaoy commune election candidate for the CNRP in Pursat province, and Noeun Nim, another former Ou Saom commune election candidate for the CNRP. The men are currently being held at Pursat provincial prison. Authorities allege the two men were involved in “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging.

None of these six former local CNRP officials owns land in the area they are accused to have illegally cleared land.  Chan Sophal was known to hold dinners at his house, bringing together members of the opposition, including the five.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has increased harassment of the opposition in 2019, with over 147 police or court summons issued against members and supporters of the CNRP based on allegations that they violated the Supreme Court decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. Many former local members and supporters continue to be vocal on social media, expressing support for leading figures of the CNRP who are currently in exile.

 
 

Net Sao


Net Sao, 65
 

On April 8, 2017, a group of military police and soldiers arrested Net Sao, a former CNRP Krayear commune councilor in Kampong Thom province, along with land rights activist and local CNRP supporter, Sun Chan Noeurn.

Net Sao ran as a commune chief candidate for the CNRP during the June 2017 commune council elections. He also intervened on behalf of several communities affected by land disputes in Krayear commune. Authorities arrested him while he was speaking to a group of community members and transported him to the provincial forestry department for questioning. The investigation focused on allegations he had disturbed and obstructed the work of law enforcement officers. On April 9, Kampong Thom provincial court formally charged him and Sun Chan Noeurn and sent both to pre-trial detention. On January 24, 2018, the same court convicted both Net Sao and Sun Chan Noeurn of obstructing deliberate duties and operations of officials (article 100 of the Forestry Law) and intentional violence (article 217 of the Cambodian Criminal Code) and sentenced both to three years in prison. On July 19, the Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.

 
 

Sun Chan Noeurn


Sun Chan Noeurn, 34*
 

On April 8, 2017, a group of military police and soldiers arrested Net Sao, a former CNRP Krayear commune councilor in Kampong Thom province, along with land rights activist and local CNRP supporter, Sun Chan Noeurn.

On April 9, Kampong Thom provincial court formally charged Sun Chan Noeurn and Net Sao and sent both to pre-trial detention. On January 24, 2018, the same court convicted Sun Chan Noeurn and Net Sao of obstructing deliberate duties and operations of officials (article 100 of the Forestry Law) and intentional violence (article 217 of the Cambodian Criminal Code) and sentenced both to three years in prison. On July 19, the Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.

Net Sao ran as a commune chief candidate for the CNRP during the June 2017 commune council elections. He also intervened on behalf of several communities affected by land disputes in Krayear commune.

 
 

Ouk Chetny


Ouk Chetny
 

On June 19, 2018, five soldiers and forest rangers working with the authorities in Kbal Chhay province arrested Ouk Chetny, a former opposition CNRP commune council chief, and his father-in-law, Sam Sun. The following day, the Preah Sihanouk provincial court charged both with “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging (article 94 of Forestry Law 2002). They are being held in pre-trial detention in Preah Sihanouk prison. Ouk Chetny’s and Sam Sun’s arrest occurred when they were clearing forestland for farming and cultivation purposes on land they bought in 2017. Local NGOs criticized the authorities for acting too hastily to detain them, and calling for the release of the two men while a thorough and impartial investigation is conducted into the land issue at stake.

 
 

Sam Sun


Sam Sun
 

On June 19, 2018, five soldiers and forest rangers working with the authorities in Kbal Chhay province arrested Ouk Chetny, a former opposition CNRP commune council chief, and his father-in-law, Sam Sun. The following day, the Preah Sihanouk provincial court charged both with “encroaching on state forest land” and illegal logging (article 94 of Forestry Law 2002). They are being held in pre-trial detention in Preah Sihanouk prison. Ouk Chetny’s and Sam Sun’s arrest occurred when they were clearing forestland for farming and cultivation purposes on land they bought in 2017. Local NGOs criticized the authorities for acting too hastily to detain them, and calling for the release of the two men while a thorough and impartial investigation is conducted into the land issue at stake.

 
 

Pan Soksovanny


Pan Soksovanny, 40
 

On February 1, 2019, after being followed by plainclothes police close to Phnom Penh’s Central Market, a group of military and Ministry of Interior police officers arrested Pan Soksovanny, a former opposition CNRP member from Krang Thnong commune, Pur Sunchey district, Phnom Penh. The arrest was carried out without an arrest warrant, and officials questioned him for two days at Phnom Penh’s National Police Commissariat. On February 3, the Phnom Penh municipal court charged Soksovanny with public defamation and incitement to commit felony (articles 307 and 495 of the Criminal Code). Soksovanny allegedly had made posts critical of the government on Facebook, and expressed his support for acting CNRP president Sam Rainsy. On July 19, 2019, the Phnom Penh municipal court scheduled his first trial hearing; the verdict is due on August 16.

 
 

Rath Rott Mony


Rath Rott Mony, 47
 

On December 7, 2018, Thai authorities detained Rath Rott Mony, a dissident and former president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCFTUF), who had fled Cambodia because he feared arrest. Thai immigration officials acted based on a Cambodian government request to return Mony for prosecution.

Cambodia charged Mony based on his role supporting the Russia Today documentary “My Mother Sold Me,” which includes accounts of poverty-stricken families sending their daughters to engage in sex work. Cambodian authorities accused the documentary makers of paying the featured girls and their mothers to lie on camera as part of an effort to harm Cambodia’s reputation.

On December 12, the Thai government deported Mony to Cambodia. Cambodian authorities detained him at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. The court charged him with “incitement to discriminate” (article 496 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code), a charge commonly used by Cambodian authorities to silence critics. The Phnom Penh municipal court denied his bail request, and on January 31, 2019, the Phnom Penh Appeal Court upheld that denial .

Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of a letter issued by Russia Today’s head of documentary department, Ekaterina Yakovleva, addressed to the Embassy of Cambodia in Moscow. The letter clarified Mony’s role in the production of the documentary. It stressed that during the period from January 22 to February 6, 2018, Mony acted as an interpreter, local fixer and liaison on the crew’s behalf with the Cambodian authorities. The letter further clarified Russia Today had received written consent from all Cambodian interviewees featured in the documentary. The letter stated the entire editing process of the documentary was done in Russia by Russia Today staff, and not by Mony, who was simply a consultant.

These statements contradict the allegations made on June 12 by the trial judge of the municipal court, which indicated that Mony had been involved in the production of the documentary.

On March 25, 2019, the investigating judge announced the closure of his judicial investigation and sent the case to trial. On May 30, the Phnom Penh municipal court held the first trial hearing. After three hours, which focused on Rath Rott Mony’s relationship with Moscow’s RT news service and his exact role in the production of “My Mother Sold Me,” the judge postponed the hearing until June 12, citing the absence of the two plaintiffs listed in the complaint, Tep Salin and her daughter Lim Sreyty, who is featured in the documentary. Mony repeated that he was merely providing translations and had no input in the content of the documentary. Mony’s lawyers had objected because they were denied an opportunity to question the plaintiff. On June 12, the two plaintiffs, Tep Salin and Lim Sreyty appeared in court, accusing Mony of promising to help them set up a hairdresser salon and laundry business in Phnom Penh in return for their testimony in the documentary. Changing their story – the mother never sold her daughter – they sought US$10,000 in damages from Mony.

On June 26, the court convicted Mony of “incitement to discriminate” (article 496 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two years in prison, and imposed a hefty 70 million Cambodian riel (US$17,500) compensation payment that Mony must pay to the two plaintiffs. The verdict was delivered rapidly, in approximately 10 minutes in a courtroom filled with journalists, diplomats, and UN and NGO staffers.

 
 

Sorn Sam Neang


Sorn Sam Neang, 37
 

On July 15, 2018, Kampong Thom provincial military police arrested Sorn Sam Neang, a former deputy military police chief in O Suosdei village, Baray commune, Baray district, Kampong Thom province. Sam Neang alleged in his Facebook posts that the military was involved in drug trafficking in Cambodia. There was no arrest warrant for the arrest, but authorities alleged that the Facebook posts adversely affected the military’s reputation.

In 2013, Sam Neang had posted documents on Facebook showing he received orders to crack down on drugs. Subsequently he stated that he was involved in a traffic stop of a car loaded with 172 kilograms of marijuana traveling from Preah Vihear province. He alleged he received a US$300,000 bribe to look the other way. The case was reopened in mid-July 2018, when national military police spokesman Brigadier General Eng Hy called on the Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate who received the US$300,000 in 2013, with the justification that other military officials may have been involved. He also alleged that Sam Neang had been taken to court several times in the past for other criminal offenses. Provincial military police commander Hang Thol alleged without basis that Sam Neang had “seized more than 100 kilograms of marijuana [… and after] seizing it, he hid the marijuana and did not report the matter hoping to extort money from the traffickers.” He stated that Sam Neang was “punished” later.

In 2017, the military dismissed Sam Neang from service, allegedly because of his repeated critical Facebook posts about the military, including documents on the drug case and the disappearance of 90 pieces of luxury rosewood confiscated from an arrested truck driver. He called the dismissal unjust.

On July 17, 2018, the Kampong Thom provincial court issued a detention order that sent him to pre-trial detention on the basis of public defamation and incitement to commit felony charges (articles 307 and 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code). He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

 
 

Sou Yean


Sou Yean, 45
 

On April 22, 2019, Tbong Khmum provincial police arrested Sou Yean, a former opposition CNRP provincial councilor from Prey Treak village, Teak commune, Memot district, Tbong Khmum province.

Police based the arrest on his comments levelled at Prime Minister Hun Sen in a private message on Facebook. In his messenger chat, Sou Yean stated that Hun Sen was not keeping his promises such as protecting Cambodia’s forests and fighting corruption. At the end of his message, he wrote: “Hun Sen is just blind in one eye, while his supporters are blind in both eyes, and deaf too.” The private message was leaked and ended up in the hands of Pankhem Buthan, deputy chief of the prime minister’s cabinet and president of the Youth Federation of Senaneak, who soon filed a legal complaint against Sou Yean.

On April 23, the Tbong Khmum provincial court charged Sou Yean with incitement to commit a felony (article 495 of the criminal code) and placed him in pre-trial detention.

 
 

Soung Neak Poan


Soung Neak Poan, 29
 

On July 10, 2019, in commemoration of the third anniversary since the killing of prominent political commentator Kem Ley, student activist Soung Neak Poan distributed posters calling for an end to extrajudicial killings. Police arrested Soung Neak Poan as well as two other youth activist twin brothers, Chum Hout and Chum Hour, who had carried a flower wreath to place near the station where Ley was killed. At the Phnom Penh police station, Soung Neak Poan refused to sign a “confession” to refrain from similar activities in the future – a requirement that Cambodian authorities frequently impose on released activists – and thus police held Neak Poan overnight. The two twin brothers were released upon signing the confession. On July 12, Soung Neak Poan was charged with incitement to commit a felony and sent to pretrial detention at Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1 (CC1). On August 13, 2019, the Phnom Penh court denied Neak Poan bail.

 
 

Tith Rorn


Tith Rorn, 37
 

Tith Rorn was an opposition CNRP activist and the son of former CNRP official Eam Tith. He was arrested on April 15, 2019, related to a 13-year-old assault charge, even though the statute of limitations had expired. He died on April 18, 2019, after less than 72 hours in police custody. Visible bruises on his body suggest he was beaten.

Cambodian authorities claim Tith Rorn fell in the bathroom of his jail cell due to “being addicted to alcohol,” but they failed to conduct an independent, thorough, and impartial investigation into the cause of death. His father stated that when “my son left home prior to his arrest, there were no bruises or injuries on him, and he wasn’t suffering from any illness.”

Activists and Tith Rorn’s family were dismissive of obviously edited video footage publicized by the Phnom Penh Post that was received from Kampong Cham provincial police headquarters. They are demanding a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation into his death.

 
 

Nou Phoeun


Nou Phoeun, 42
 

On September 1, 2019, plain clothed police arrested former member of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) Nou Phoeun, who contested as a CNRP candidate for the Baray commune council, Kampong Thom province. At the same time, authorities also arrested Sun Bunthon, who had been the former CNRP commune council member of Baray commune.

The authorities alleged he had shared information on Facebook that insulted Prime Minister Hun Sen and promoted information about the planned return of acting CNRP head, Sam Rainsy, to Cambodia.

The authorities justified conducting the arrest without an arrest warrant on the grounds that he was caught committing the act (“in flagrante delicto”), a justification commonly used by Cambodian authorities to shortcut judicial protections against arbitrary arrest. The authorities alleged that the information the two had shared on Facebook would cause public harm or constitute a threat of a crime about to be committed.

After arrest, the authorities held Phoeun overnight at Kampong Thom police station. On September 2, the Kampong Thom provincial court charged him with defamation, “public insult,” “incitement to commit felony,” and “discrediting a judicial decision” (respectively, articles 305, 307, 494, 495, and 523 of the Cambodian criminal code) as well as continuing to be active on behalf of a political party that had been dissolved by the Supreme Court, an allegation that is based on the repressive amendments of the Law on Political Parties (new article 42). The investigating judge ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Thom provincial prison.

 
 

Yat Phearum


Yat Phearum, 39
 

On September 13, 2019, Banteay Meanchey police arrested Yat Pearum, former Svay Chek district youth deputy chief for the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Banteay Meanchey province. He was one of six former CNRP activists who were arrested on September 13 and 14. 

The arrest was based on a warrant issued on September 10 by the Banteay Meanchey provincial prosecutor. The Banteay Meanchey provincial court charged Phearum with plotting a coup (article 453 of the Cambodian criminal code). The court also ordered his pre-trial detention at Banteay Meanchey provincial prison. On October 30, the investigating judge of the Banteay Meanchey provincial court is scheduled to question Phearum.

According to several news reports, Ministry of Interior officials accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy.

 
 

Tum Bunthan


Tum Bunthan, 43
 

On September 13, 2109, police arrested Tum Bunthan, former CNRP youth activist of the dissolved opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), in Siem Reap province. He was one of six former CNRP activists who were arrested on September 13 and 14.

On September 14, 2019, the investigating judge of the Phnom Penh municipal charged him with plotting a coup (article 453 of the Cambodian criminal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. On October 17, the investigating judge is scheduled to question Bunthan.

According to several news reports, Ministry of Interior officials accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy.

 
 

You Chantheany


You Chantheany, 25
 

On September 13, 2019, Phnom Penh police arrested You Chantheany, former CNRP youth activist and CNRP online news presenter, in Phnom Penh. She was one of six ???

On September 14, the investigating judge of the Phnom Penh municipal court charged her with incitement to commit a felony and plotting a coup (articles 453, 494 and 495 of the Cambodian criminal code). The court ordered her pre-trial detention at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. On October 18, 2019, the investigating judge is scheduled to question Chantheany.

According to several news reports, Ministry of Interior officials accused her of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy.

 
 

Nuth Pich


Nuth Pich, 63
 

On August 17, 2019, Kampot police arrested Nuth Pich, a former Kampot provincial Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) official, for allegedly violating the Supreme Court’s decision that dissolved the CNRP in November 2017. The Kampot provincial court issued an arrest warrant against Pich on May 17, 2019, charging him with “discrediting judicial decisions” (article 523 of the Cambodia’s criminal code) and “incitement to commit felony” (articles 494 and 495 of the criminal code). Upon hearing about the arrest warrant, Pich went into hiding but was later apprehended.

Pich’s arrest is believed to be linked to the arrest of Nget Khouch on May 7, 2019 and subsequent uncovering of electronic evidence implicating Pich in a group chat. Kampot police arrested Khouch, a former Kampot provincial CNRP official, and detained him for two nights. Investigators were able to access Khouch’s mobile phone and allegedly saw messages exchanged between former CNRP members, in which they expressed support of the return to Cambodia of acting leader of the CNRP, Sam Rainsy. Pich was part of the group message.

Pich’s case marks the first arrest of a CNRP member based on allegations of having disobeyed the Supreme Court’s November 2017 dissolution decision.

 
 

Oun Saven


Oun Saven, 64
 

On October 10, 2019, Kampong Cham police arrested Oun Saven, an activist of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) at his home in Kampong Cham province. Authorities arrested his fellow CNRP activist Ly Kimheang on the same day.

On October 10, the prosecutor of the Kampong Cham provincial court issued a warrant for his arrest based on charges that he had plotted a coup and committed incitement to commit a felony (articles 453, 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Cham provincial prison.

The authorities accused him of gathering and disseminating information about a plan to topple the government, connected to the announcement that acting head of the CNRP, Sam Rainsy, will return to Cambodia.

 
 

Ly Kimheang


Ly Kimheang, 47
 

On October 10, 2019, Kampong Cham police arrested Ly Kimheang, an activist of the dissolved opposition, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) at his home in Kampong Cham province. Authorities arrested his fellow CNRP activist Oun Saven.

On October 10, the prosecutor of the Kampong Cham provincial court issued a warrant for his arrest based on charges that he had plotted a coup and committed incitement to commit a felony (articles 453, 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Cham provincial prison.

The authorities accused him of gathering and disseminating information about a plan to topple the government, connected to the announcement that acting head of the CNRP, Sam Rainsy, will return to Cambodia.

 
 

Ly Meng Kheang


Ly Meng Kheang, 35
 

On September 14, 2019, police arrested Ly Meng Kheang, former Sa’ang district committee member of the dissolved opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Kandal province. He was one of six former CNRP activists who were arrested on September 13 and 14.

The Kandal provincial court charged him with incitement to commit a felony (articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian criminal code) and ordered pre-trial detention at Kandal provincial prison. On October 10, the Phnom Penh Appeals Court denied his request for bail.

According to several news reports, Ministry of Interior officials accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy. Meng Kheang had eaten “Khmer noodles” with other former CNRP members and activists, which authorities used as a grounds to arrest him.

 
 

Ly Lin


Ly Lin, 38
 

On September 14, police arrested Ly Lin, former elected Samraong Thom commune council chief for the dissolved opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), in Kandal province. He was one of six former CNRP activists who were arrested on September 13 and 14.

The Kandal provincial court charged him with incitement to commit a felony (articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian criminal code) and ordered his pre-trial detention at Kandal provincial prison. On October 10, the Phnom Penh Appeals Court denied his request for bail.

According to several news reports, Ministry of Interior officials accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy. Lin had eaten “Khmer noodles” with other former CNRP members and activists, which authorities took as a grounds to arrest him.

 
 

Chhun Thai Yuth


Chhun Thai Yuth, 56
 

On September 14, police arrested Chhun Thai Yuth, former first deputy commune chief of Prek Sdei commune in Koh Thom district, in Kandal province. He was one of six former CNRP activists who were arrested on September 13 and 14.

The Kandal provincial court charged him with incitement to commit a felony (articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian criminal code) and ordered pre-trial detention at Kandal provincial prison. On October 10, the Phnom Penh Appeals Court denied his request for bail.

According to several news reports, Ministry of Interior officials accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy. Thai Yuth had eaten “Khmer noodles” with other former CNRP members and activists, which authorities used as a grounds to arrest him.

 
 

Ngin Sophat


Ngin Sophat, 56
 

On September 21, 2019, Rattanakiri provincial police arrested Ngin Sophat, a former district chief of Banlung town in Rattanakiri province for the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and secretary of the provincial CNRP working group. On the same day, police arrested another former CNRP member, Thoun Bunthorn.

The Rattanakiri provincial court charged Sophat with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code) and ordered his pre-trial detention at Rattanakiri provincial prison.

Sophat had recently made several Facebook posts supporting the announcement that acting CNRP head, Sam Rainsy, would return to Cambodia.

 
 

Thoun Bunthorn


Thoun Bunthorn, 50
 

On September 21, 2019, Rattanakiri provincial police arrested Thoun Bunthorn, a former Rattanakiri provincial council member for the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the chair of the CNRP executive committee of Banlung town in Rattanakiri province. On the same day, police arrested another former CNRP member, Ngin Sophat.

The Rattanakiri provincial court charged Bunthorn with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code) and ordered his pre-trial detention at Rattanakiri provincial prison.

Bunthorn had recently made several Facebook posts supporting the announcement that acting CNRP head, Sam Rainsy, would return to Cambodia.

 
 

Sreoun Sreang


Sreoun Sreang, 43
 

On September 26, 2019, Kampong Cham police arrested Sreoun Sreang, a former member of Kampong Cham provincial youth wing of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

On September 26, the Kampong Cham provincial court issued a statement that Sreang had been charged with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Cham provincial prison.

Authorities accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy

 
 

Dong Sovannarith


Dong Sovannarith, 47
 

On October 1, 2019, Kampong Cham police arrested Dong Sovannarith in Sambo commune, Ba Theay district, Kampong Cham province. He was the former chair of Ba Theay district youth wing of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

On September 28, the prosecutor of the Kampong Cham provincial court had issued a warrant for his arrest on the basis of charges of incitement to commit felony (article 495 of Cambodia’s penal code).

On October 9, the Kampong Cham provincial court charged him for a different crime: plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code), together with Horm Vuthy, another CNRP activist. The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Cham provincial prison.

Authorities accused him of wanting to topple the government on behalf of the CNRP’s acting president, Sam Rainsy.

 
 

Mean La


Mean La, 31
 

On October 6, 2019, Poipet City and Tboum Khmum provincial police joined forces to arrest Mean La, a former Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) commune councilor in Dun Theay commune in Tboum Khmum province and Ponhea Krek district CNRP executive committee member.

On October 4, the Tboum Khmum provincial court charged her with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered her pre-trial detention at Tboum Khmum provincial prison.

The authorities accused her of having “gathered and mobilized citizens with a plot to lead a group to travel to Phnom Penh to participate in activities of toppling the government.”

 
 

Horm Vuthy


Horm Vuthy, 47
 

On October 8, 2019, police arrested Horm Vuthy (also known as Van Pana) at Phnom Penh international airport while he was waiting to depart on a flight. He is a former vice chair of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) executive committee in Ba Theay district, Kampong Cham province.

 

On October 9, the Kampong Cham provincial court announced in a statement that he had been charged with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code), together with Dong Sovannarith, another CNRP activist. The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Cham provincial prison.

 
 

Chhim Marady


Chhim Marady, 40
 

On October 10, 2019, Kampong Speu police arrested Chhim Marady, a former activist of the dissolved opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Kampong Speu province.

On October 10, the investigating judge of the Kampong Speu provincial court charged him with incitement to commit a felony (article 495 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Speu provincial prison.

 
 

Khin Sok Heang


Khin Sok Heang
 

On October 7, 2019, Phnom Penh police arrested Khin Sok Heang at his home in Phnom Penh. He is the former chair of the Phnom Penh’s Prek Bra district executive committee of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

On October 7, the Phnom Penh municipal court charged him with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered he be sent to pre-trial detention at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.

 
 

Tith Sophath


Tith Sophath
 

On October 7, 2019, Phnom Penh police arrested Tith Sophath at her home in Phnom Penh. She is the former elected Psar Depot II Tuol Kork council member from the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). She also served as a member of the CNRP Women’s Wing  in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district.

On October 7, the Phnom Penh municipal court charged her with plotting a coup (article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code) and ordered her sent to pre-trial detention in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.

 
 

Om Yonn


Om Yonn, 61
 

On October 9, 2019, Kampong Speu police arrested Om Yonn, an activist in the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Kampong Speu province. He was arrested together with another former CNRP activist, Puy Takk.

On October 8, the investigating judge of the Kampong Speu provincial court charged him with incitement to commit felony and discrediting a judicial decision (articles 495 and 523 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Speu provincial prison.

 
 

Puy Takk


Puy Takk, 37
 

On October 9, 2019, Kampong Speu police arrested Puy Takk, a former member of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) executive committee in Borsedith district of  Kampong Speu province. He was arrested together with another CNRP activist, Om Yonn.

On October 8, a Kampong Speu provincial court investigating judge charged him with incitement to commit felony and discrediting a judicial decision (articles 495 and 523 of Cambodia’s penal code). The court ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Speu provincial prison.

At the time of his arrest, Puy Pakk was transporting meat to sell at a local market. Police also arrested his brother, Hun Tin (30 years old), who was with him at the market, on the basis that he had obstructed a police officer (article 503 of Cambodia’s penal code), but it is unclear whether he is still being held or whether he was formally charged with a crime.

 
 

Men Yorn


Men Yorn
 

On October 12, 2019, police arrested Men Yorn, a former Samlot district party chief of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Battambang province. Police arrested him together with three other former CNRP members and activists in Battambang province: Dim Saroeun, Ley Sokhon, and Sok Phat.

The arrest was based on a warrant issued on October 11 by the prosecutor of the Battambang provincial court. The investigating judge charged him with plotting a coup under article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code. On October 13, authorities transferred Yorn to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention.

 
 

Sok Phat


Sok Phat
 

On October 12, 2019, police arrested Sok Phat, a former Samlot district party member of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Battambang province. Police arrested him together with three other former CNRP members and activists in Battambang province: Dim Saroeun, Ley Sokhon, and Men Yorn.

The arrest was based on a warrant issued on October 11 by the prosecutor of the Battambang provincial court. The investigating judge charged him with plotting a coup under article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code. On October 13, authorities transferred Phat to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention.

 
 

Ley Sokhon


Ley Sokhon
 

On October 12, 2019, police arrested Ley Sokhorn, a former provincial party working group member of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in charge of Samlot district in Battambang province. Police arrested him together with three other former CNRP members and activists in Battambang province: Dim Saroeun, Men Yorn, and Sok Phat.

The arrest was based on a warrant issued on October 11 by the prosecutor of the Battambang provincial court. The investigating judge charged him with plotting a coup under article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code. On October 13, authorities transferred Sokhon to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention.

 
 

Dim Saroeun


Dim Saroeun
 

On October 12, 2019, Battambang police arrested Dem Saroeun, a former elected provincial council member of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). Police arrested him together with three other former CNRP members and activists in Battambang province: Men Yorn, Ley Sokhon, and Sok Phat.

The arrest was based on a warrant issued on October 11 by the prosecutor of the Battambang provincial court. The investigating judge charged him with plotting a coup under article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code. On October 13, authorities transferred Saroeun to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention.

 
 

Pen Mom


Pen Mom, 39
 

On October 12, 2019, police arrested Penh Mom (also known as Sambo Mom) in Phnom Penh. She is a former vice chair of the Kandor commune executive committee of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Kampot province.

The arrest was based on a court summons issued on October 9 by the deputy prosecutor of the Kampot provincial court.

On October 14, the investigating judge of the Kampot provincial court charged her with plotting a coup under article 453 of Cambodia’s penal code and ordered her pre-trial detention at Kampot provincial prison.

Mom had made regular politically oriented posts on Facebook since the dissolution of the CNRP in November 2017. Authorities allege she was engaged in the public mobilization to support the return to Cambodia of the acting CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy.

 
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RELEASED
 

Heng Sok


Heng Sok
Released on August 28, 2018

On February 23, 2018, Heng Sok, a community representative for families involved in a land dispute in Kiri Sakor district, Koh Kong province, was detained and brought to the Koh Kong provincial police station by security forces working for Ly Yong Phat (LYP) Group, a business empire owned by powerful Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat. Police arrested him based on a complaint filed by LYP Group about Heng Sok’s effort to demarcate a land boundary in a dispute between 50 local families and the LYP Group. The dispute concerns 103 hectares of land granted to the LYP Group as part of an agricultural economic land concession inside the Botum Sakor National Park. On February 25, 2018, the Koh Kong provincial court charged Heng Sok with use of violence against a possessor in good faith of immovable property (article 253 of the Land Management Law) and sent him to pre-trial detention. On August 21, 2018, the Koh Kong provincial court convicted Sok and sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

Heng Sok was released on May 28, 2019, after serving his prison sentence.

 
 

Chhun Sithi


Chhun Sithi
Sentenced: 1 year

Chhun Sithi, a CNRP commune councilor in Stung Kach commune, Pailin province, was arrested on October 24, 2017, a day after he posted a video clip on social media with a message to Prime Minister Hun Sen stating that he would not defect to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) even if the main opposition party, the CNRP, was dissolved or he was stripped of his position. On March 23, 2018, the Pailin Provincial Court convicted him of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and insulting a public official (article 502). The court sentenced him to one year in prison with a fine of eight million riels (US$2,000).

Sithi was released on October 24, 2018, after completing his sentence.

 
 

An Batham


An Batham, 37
Released on August 28, 2018

An Batham is a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters, and activists of Cambodia’s dissolved opposition party, the CNRP, and was convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Batham of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards, and sentenced him to seven years in prison. On May 20, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Court of Appeal upheld both his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Batham was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Hin Van Sreypov


Heng Leakhena, 37
Sentenced: 1 year

Heng Leakhena (also known as Hin Van Sreypov), a former CNRP member, was arrested on July 12, 2017, at a local bus station after she had posted on Facebook a video in which she accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of ordering the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley. On January 11, 2018, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced her to one-year in prison and a one million riel fine (US$250).

On July 13, 2018, Sreypov was released from prison after serving her prison sentence.

 
 

James Ricketson


James Ricketson, 69
Sentenced: 6 years

James Ricketson, an Australian filmmaker, was arrested on June 3, 2017, on fabricated charges of “stealing information.” Authorities photographed him flying a drone without a permit over a political rally staged by the CNRP. On June 9, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Ricketson with espionage (article 446 of the Criminal Code), claiming he gathered information for a foreign power that could damage national security. After a seven-day trial, on August 31, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court convicted him of espionage (articles 439 and 446) and sentenced him to six years in prison.

A month after his conviction, on September 21, Ricketson was granted a royal pardon by King Sihamoni. The government deported Ricketson to Australia the following evening. On September 25, Immigration Department chief Kem Sarin referred to a 2016 decree on deportation saying that “a person convicted of a crime in Cambodia is permanently barred from entering the Kingdom.” Ricketson had resided for over 23 years in Cambodia prior to his deportation.

 
 

Ke Khim


Ke Khim, 35
Released on August 28, 2018

Ke Khim is a CNRP supporter. He is one of the 14 members of Cambodia’s now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced him to seven years in prison for participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code) in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. After hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal ruled on May 20 to uphold both the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Khim was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Khin Chamreun


Khin Chamreun, 34
Released on August 28, 2018

Khin Chamreun is a CNRP Phnom Penh youth chief. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the dissolved CNRP who were convicted on politically motivated insurrection charges for helping lead a CNRP-led protest in July 2014. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Chamreun in July 2015 of participating in and leading an “insurrectionary” movement (articles 456, 457, and 459 of the Criminal Code) in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. The court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. In April 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld both his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Chamreun was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Kim Sok


Kim Sok, 37
Released on August 17, 2018, after serving his prison sentence

Kim Sok, a political commentator, was arrested on February 17, 2017, and charged with criminal defamation and incitement based on a complaint filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The charges stemmed from an interview he gave to Radio Free Asia in which he alluded to the alleged involvement of the ruling CPP in the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley in July 2016. On August 10, 2017, a court convicted Sok of defamation (article 305 of the Criminal Code) and inciting the commission of a felony (articles 494 and 495) and sentenced him to 18 months in prison and a fine of 8 million riels (US$2,000) to be paid to the government and 800 million riels ($200,000) in damages to be paid to the CPP. On November 17, 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld both his conviction and sentence. On July 2, 2018, the Supreme Court also upheld the verdict. A second defamation complaint filed by Hun Sen is pending at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

On August 17, 2018, Kim Sok was released after serving his sentence. After his release Kim Sok said he would continue to speak out against the government and in favor of democracy. On August 28, a Phnom Penh judge issued a summons for Kim Sok to appear on September 14 on second charges of defamation and incitement. Kim Sok fled Cambodia to avoid arrest and reportedly because of threats made to his young daughter. In October 2018, Finland granted him asylum.

 
 

Meach Sovannara


Meach Sovannara, 47
Released on August 28, 2018

Meach Sovannara was a CNRP candidate for parliament from Banteay Meanchey province and is a dual Cambodian and US national. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of Cambodia’s now-dissolved opposition CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges connected to July 2014 protests in Phnom Penh. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Sovannara of participating in and leading an insurrectionary movement (articles 456, 457, and 459 of the criminal code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. The court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on May 20, 2018.

On March 26, 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen scolded officials of Correctional Center 1 for allegedly allowing Sovannara to use a mobile phone in prison and ordered them to remove it “immediately,” while telling Sovannara he would never “come out.”

On August 28, 2018, Sovannara was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Neang Sokhun


Neang Sokhun, 34
Released on August 28, 2018

Neang Sokhun is a CNRP Chhbar Ampov district youth leader. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges in connection with July 2014 protests led by the CNRP. The Phnom Penh Municipal court convicted Sokhun on July 21, 2015, on charges of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the criminal code). The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence on May 20, 2018.

On August 28, 2018, Sokhun was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Oeur Narith


Oeur Narith, 38
Released on August 28, 2018

Oeur Narith is one of the 14 CNRP officials, supporters and activists convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges in connection with a CNRP-led protest in July 2014 in Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Narith, a CNRP public affairs officer, of participating in and leading an insurrectionary movement (articles 456, 457, and 459 of the criminal code), in a trial that violated the defendant’s fair trial rights and sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment. The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence in a ruling released on May 20, 2018.

On August 28, 2018, Narith was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Ouk Pich Samnang


Ouk Pich Samnang, 54
Released on August 28, 2018

Ouk Pich Samnang is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted on politically motivated insurrection charges in connection with a CNRP-led protest in July 2014. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found him guilty of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Both the conviction and prison sentence were upheld by the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on May 20, 2018.

Authorities harassed Samnang in a separate case related to an October 2014 protest outside Hun Sen’s house. A farming community from Preah Vihear province protested and demanded that the government help solve their land dispute. On September 10, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Samnang of committing intentional violence and obstructing authorities despite the prosecutors’ failure to present evidence of wrongdoing. The judge sentenced him to two years in prison and ordered him to pay 10 million riels (US$2,500) in damages to pay for medical treatment of injured security guards and damaged Daun Penh district security equipment. On July 20, 2016, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Samnang was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Roeun Chetra


Roeun Chetra, 34
Released on August 28, 2018

Roeun Chetra is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved opposition CNRP who was convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. Authorities arrested Chetra, on August 4, 2015. On June 13, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted him of participation in an insurrectionary movement (article 457 of the Criminal Code), intentional acts of violence (article 218) and inciting the commission of a felony (article 495), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment.

On August 28, 2018, Chetra was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

San Kimheng


San Kimheng, 31
Released on August 28, 2018

San Kimheng is a CNRP district youth leader from Tuol Kork in Phnom Penh. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Kimheng of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards and sentenced him to seven years in prison. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld both the conviction and prison sentence on May 20.

On August 28, 2018, Kimheng was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

San Seihak


San Seihak, 31
Recently Released

San Seikhak is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. Along with the others, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Seikhak on July 21, 2015, of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. The court sentenced Seikhak to seven years in prison. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on May 20 upheld both the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Seikhak was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Sourn Serey Ratha


Sourn Serey Ratha, 44
Released on August 23, 2018

Sourn Serey Ratha, a dual Cambodian-US citizen, is the founder and president of the Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM) and later the Khmer Power Party (KPP). He was arrested on August 13, 2017 for criticizing the deployment of Cambodian troops to the Lao border during a trip by Prime Minister Hun Sen to Laos in mid-2017 to settle a border dispute between the two countries. On August 14, authorities charged Ratha with inciting military personnel to disobedience (article 471 of the Criminal Code), demoralizing the army (article 472) and inciting the commission of a felony (articles 494). On August 25, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Ratha and sentenced him to five years in prison and fined him 10 million riels (US$2,500). On October 12, 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction. On May 18, 2018, the Supreme Court also did.

The government has labelled Ratha’s KPPM party a terrorist group. While in self-imposed exile in 2015, a court convicted Ratha in absentia for endangering government institutions or violating the integrity of the national territory (article 453) and of using force or violence to deter eligible voters from voting (article 124 of the Law on Election of Members of the National Assembly). The court sentenced him to seven years in prison. Upon Hun Sen’s request, King Sihamoni pardoned Ratha on July 10, 2015, thereby allowing him to return to Cambodia without fear of imprisonment. In March 2015, the Ministry of Interior gave permission to Ratha to form a political party to contest in the elections: Ratha formed the Khmer Power Party.

In December 2015, Ratha filed a complaint against Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for defamation and incitement because the minister had failed to write an official apology letter, recanting his allegation that his KPP party had committed terrorist acts.

On May 15, 2018, Ratha posted a letter on his Facebook page, apologizing to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Armed Forces and seeking a pardon. He was released on August 23, 2018 after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni based on a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

 
 

Sum Puthy


Sum Puthy, 50
Released on August 28, 2018

Sum Puthy is a CNRP Chhbar Ampov district council member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of Cambodia’s now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred in July 2014 during a CNRP-led protest. With the others, Puthy was tried on July 21, 2015 in a judicial process that did not meet international fair trial standards. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Puthy of participating in an insurrectionary movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Court of Appeal on May 20 upheld both his conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Puthy was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Tep Narin


Tep Narin, 31
Released on August 28, 2018

Tep Narin is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of Cambodia’s now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges for events that occurred during a July 2014 CNRP-led protest. On July 21, 2015, Narin was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of participating in an “insurrectionary” movement (articles 456 and 457 of the Criminal Code), in a speedy trial that violated the defendant’s fair trial rights and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. After appeal hearings from April 21 to 23, 2018, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld on May 20 both the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 28, 2018, Narin was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Tep Vanny


Tep Vanny, 36
Released on August 20, 2018, but convicted four days later in a separate case – enforcement of that suspended prison sentence is pending appeal

Tep Vanny is a prominent community land rights activist in Phnom Penh and the recipient of the 2013 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

Vanny long opposed the government’s now completed plan to drain Boeung Kak lake for high-end residences and commercial properties, which the city rented to Shukaku Inc., a private company led by ruling CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin. Authorities arrested her on August 15, 2016, during a peaceful protest. On August 22, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Vanny and Bov Sophea, a fellow community member, of insulting a public official (article 502 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced them both to the six days they had already served in pre-trial detention.

The authorities then restarted long-dormant politically motivated charges against Vanny. On September 19, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Vanny and three other Boeung Kak lake community members (Kong Chantha, Bo Chhorvy, and Heng Mom) for obstructing a public official with aggravating circumstances and insulting a public official (articles 502 and 504) and sentenced them to six months in prison. The charges stemmed from their participation in a protest in November 2011 outside the Phnom Penh municipality office, where they demanded justice in the Boeung Kak land dispute. On February 23, 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld their conviction and prison sentence. On December 8, 2017, the Supreme Court agreed, though the Supreme Court’s presiding judge left the enforcement of the prison sentence to the discretion of the prosecutor, so none of the four women have yet served their prison sentence.

For Vanny’s participation in a protest outside Hun Sen’s house in March 2013, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her on February 23, 2017 of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances (article 218) and sentenced her to two and a half years in prison and a fine of 5 million riels (approximately US$1,250). The court also ordered Vanny to pay compensation of 9 million riels (approximately $2,250) to two security guards, the plaintiffs who alleged injury. The court denied consideration of video evidence showing that the two security guards were responsible for the violence, in a trial that otherwise did not meet international fair trial standards. On August 8, 2017, the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal upheld the ruling, as did the Supreme Court on February 8, 2018.

On August 23, 2018, Tep Vanny was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni. Four days later, on August 27, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her and five fellow community members of making death threats related to a community dispute. Although the complainant retracted her complaint, the prosecutor and investigating judge continued to pursue the case. The court sentenced all six to suspended six-month prison sentences; the suspension is conditional for five years, during which the sentence may be enforced against any of the defendants who are found guilty of having committed a crime.

 
 

Um Sam An


Um Sam An, 44
Released on August 25, 2018

Um Sam An is a dual US-Cambodian national and a former Member of Parliament of the now-dissolved CNRP. In May 2015, Sam An left Cambodia for the United States to seek evidence that would substantiate his allegations that Prime Minister Hun Sen had used the wrong maps to demarcate the Cambodia-Vietnam border. He was arrested on his return to Cambodia on April 11, 2016, on the basis of a post he made on Facebook that included his findings on the politically contentious dispute. Although covered by parliamentary immunity, prosecutors used a loophole in the law – permitting prosecutions for crimes in flagrante delicto (caught in the act), to bring him to trial. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Sam An on October 10, 2016 of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and inciting racial discrimination (article 496) and sentenced him to two and a half years in prison. The court also fined him 4 million riels (US$1000). On October 27, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and prison sentence. After further appeals, the Supreme Court again upheld the conviction and prison sentence.

On August 25, 2018, Sam An was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Horn Sophanny


Horn Sophanny, 25
Sentenced: 2 years

Venerable Horn Sophanny is an activist member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, a group led by monk But Buntenh. Authorities arrested and defrocked Sophanny on June 21, 2017. He was charged with illegal possession of a weapon after he had posted a photo of himself on social media posing with a toy gun, accompanied by a statement that he needed a gun to protect himself from what he called Prime Minister Hun Sen’s upcoming “civil war” during the 2018 elections. On December 19, 2017, the Battambang Provincial Court convicted Sophanny of inciting the commission of a felony (article 495 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to two years in prison.

On June 21, 2019, authorities released Sophanny after he completed his sentence.

 
 

Uon Chhin


Uon Chhin, 49
Released on bail August 21, 2018

Uon Chhin, a former Radio Free Asia (RFA) cameraman, was arrested on November 14, 2017, in Phnom Penh, on the same day as his colleague Yeang Sothearin. The arrests occurred two months after the RFA shut down its Cambodia operations, alleging government harassment of its reporters. Prosecutors filed baseless espionage charges, accusing Chhin and Sothearin of illegally setting up a broadcast studio with the purpose of continuing to file news reports for RFA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. On November 18, 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court formally charged Chhin with supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to Cambodia’s national defense (article 445 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, he faces between 7 to 15 years in prison. The court has repeatedly denied his bail requests.

In March 2018, prosecutors brought unfounded charges against Chhin and Sothearin that they produced pornography in violation of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. If convicted of these additional charges, they face 16 years in prison.

While Chhin was released on August 21, 2018, the charges against him were not dropped.

On March 15, 2019, the investigating judge issued a closing order to end his judicial investigation, and sent Chhin’s and Sothearin’s cases to trial. On July 26, 2019, the judge of the Phnom Penh court scheduled the first trial hearing. On July 26, the trial began and was continued on August 9. The verdict related to their espionage charges will be delivered on August 30. The second set of charges will be heard on August 30.

 
 

Yeang Sothearin


Yeang Sothearin, 35
Released on bail August 21, 2018

Yeang Sothearin, Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) former Phnom Penh bureau office manager and a news editor, was arrested on November 14, 2017, in Phnom Penh on the same day as his colleague Uon Chhin. The arrests occurred two months after the RFA shut down its Cambodia operations, alleging government harassment of its reporters. Prosecutors filed baseless espionage charges, accusing Sothearin and Chhin of illegally setting up a broadcast studio with the purpose of continuing to file news reports for RFA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Sothearin on November 18, 2017, with supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to Cambodia’s national defense (article 445 of the Criminal Code). He faces 7 to 15 years in prison if convicted and has been repeatedly denied bail since his arrest.

In March 2018, prosecutors brought unfounded charges against Chhin and Sothearin that they produced pornography in violation of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. If convicted of these additional charges, they face 16 years in prison.

While Sothearin was released on August 21, 2018, the charges against him were not dropped.

On March 15, 2019, the investigating judge issued a closing order and ended his judicial investigation, and sent Sothearin’s and Chhin’s case to trial. On July 26, 2019, the judge of the Phnom Penh court scheduled the first trial hearing. On July 26, the trial began and was continued on August 9. The verdict related to their espionage charges will be delivered on August 30. The second set of charges will be heard on August 30.

 
 

Yea Thong


Yea Thong, 27
Released on August 28, 2018

Yea Thong is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges connected to events during a CNRP-led protest in July 2014. Authorities arrested him on August 4, 2015. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted him on June 13, 2016, on charges of participation in an insurrectionary movement (article 457 of the Criminal Code), intentional acts of violence (article 218) and inciting the commission of a felony (article 495) and sentenced him to seven years in prison after a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards.

On August 28, 2018, Thong was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Yun Kimhour


Yun Kimhour, 29
Released on August 28, 2018

Yun Kimhour is a CNRP youth member. He is one of the 14 officials, supporters and activists of the now-dissolved CNRP convicted of politically motivated insurrection charges connected to a July 2014 CNRP-led protest. Authorities arrested him on August 4, 2015. On June 13, 2016, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Kimhour of participating in an insurrectionary movement (article 457 of the Criminal Code), intentional acts of violence (article 218), and inciting the commission of a felony (article 495) and sentenced to seven years in prison. The trial failed to meet international fair trial standards.

On August 28, 2018, Kimhour was released after a royal pardon granted by King Norodom Sihamoni.

 
 

Ban Samphy


Ban Samphy, 70
 

On May 13, 2018, Ban Samphy, former head of the CNRP in Siem Reap province, shared a post on Facebook that included a photo of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, and a photo of King Norodom Sihamoni, accompanied by a video clip of angry villagers affected by flooding. His post compared the king unfavorably to Cambodia’s former kings. On May 20, 2018, the police in Chikreng district, Kampong Kdey commune, Siem Reap province, arrested Samphy and questioned him. The investigating judge of the Siem Reap Provincial Court charged Samphy the same day with “insult of the king” (article 437 bis of Cambodia’s Criminal Code), which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison. He is currently in pre-trial detention.

On October 4, a court in Siem Reap convicted Samphy of lese majeste and sentenced him to one year in prison. The sentence would require him to serve seven months in prison and suspend the remaining five months.

However, on January 28, 2019, the Court of Appeals conducted a hearing in Samphy’s absence. During the hearing, the deputy prosecutor appealed to the judge to impose a heftier sentence on Samphy. Siem Reap provincial court spokesperson Yin clarified that due to the prosecutor’s appeal complaint, Samphy could not be released. On February 12, 2019, the Appeal Court sentenced him to a one-year prison term, two months of which were suspended. Prison authorities released Samphy on March 22.

 
 

Kheang Navy


Kheang Navy, 50
 

Kheang Navy, a primary school headteacher in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province, was arrested on May 13, 2018. Police questioned him for hours without a lawyer present. He remains in pre-trial detention and faces 1-5 five years in prison, a large fine for a May 12, 2018 social media post blaming the king and the Cambodian royal family for the 2017 dissolution of Cambodia’s main opposition party, the CNRP, as well as for the “loss of Khmer land.” Navy allegedly posted the comment on the Facebook page of a Kampong Thom government official who had attended a celebration of King Norodom Sihamoni’s birthday in Kampong Thom province. Under article 437 bis, the new lese majeste law, prosecutors may bring a criminal lawsuit on behalf of the monarchy against anyone deemed to have insulted the royal family.

On October 1, 2018, the Kampong Thom provincial court convicted Navy of lese majeste. The court sentenced him to two years in prison, with the first six months in prison and the rest of the sentence suspended. On November 13, 2018, Navy was released from prison.

 
 

Sun Bunthon


Sun Bunthon, 47
 

On September 1, 2019, plainclothes police arrested former member of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sun Bunthon, who had been the CNRP commune council member of Baray commune, Kampong Thom province. At the same time, authorities also arrested Nou Phoeun, who previously contested as a CNRP candidate for the Baray commune council.

The authorities alleged he had shared information on Facebook that insulted Prime Minister Hun Sen and promoted information about the planned return of acting CNRP head, Sam Rainsy, to Cambodia.

The authorities justified conducting the arrest without an arrest warrant on the grounds that he was caught committing the act (“in flagrante delicto”), a justification commonly used by Cambodian authorities to shortcut judicial protections against arbitrary arrest. The authorities alleged that the information the two had shared on Facebook would cause public harm or constitute a threat of a crime about to be committed.

After arrest, the authorities held Bunthon overnight at Kampong Thom police station. On September 2, the Kampong Thom provincial court charged him with defamation, “public insult,” “incitement to commit felony,” and “discrediting a judicial decision” (respectively, articles 305, 307, 494, 495, and 523 of the Cambodian criminal code) as well as continuing to be active on behalf of a political party that had been dissolved by the Supreme Court, an allegation that is based on the repressive amendments of the Law on Political Parties (new article 42). The investigating judge ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Thom provincial prison.

On October 11, the authorities released him on bail after he confessed at the Kampong Thom provincial police headquarters, but the charges stand.

 
 

Ros Kimsieng


Ros Kimsieng, 34
 

On September 1, 2019, Kampong Thom provincial police arrested Ros Kimsieng, former CNRP provincial youth chief for Kampong Thom province, together with two other former members of the dissolved main opposition, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), Sun Bunthon and Nou Phoeun.

Police claimed Kimsieng had shared public information related to the announced return of the acting CNRP head, Sam Rainsy, to Cambodia. 

The authorities justified conducting the arrest without an arrest warrant on the grounds that he was caught committing the act (“in flagrante delicto”), a justification commonly used by Cambodian authorities to shortcut judicial protections against arbitrary arrest. The authorities alleged that the information the two had shared on Facebook would cause public harm or constitute a threat of a crime about to be committed.

After arrest, the authorities held Kimsieng overnight at Kampong Thom police station. On September 2, the Kampong Thom provincial court charged him with defamation, “public insult,” “incitement to commit felony,” and “discrediting a judicial decision” (respectively, articles 305, 307, 494, 495, and 523 of the Cambodian criminal code) as well as continuing to be active on behalf of a political party that had been dissolved by the Supreme Court, an allegation that is based on the repressive amendments of the Law on Political Parties (new article 42). The investigating judge ordered his pre-trial detention at Kampong Thom provincial prison.

On September 3, Kampong Thom police detained Ros Kimsieng’s brother-in-law, Heng Soknim, for taking photos inside the courtroom, which is prohibited.  However, the authorities held him for two days at the provincial police station before releasing him on September 5.  The authorities apparently let him go after instructing him on lawful conduct inside a courtroom.

On October 11, the authorities released him on bail after he provided a confession at the Kampong Thom provincial police headquarters. According to the Phnom Penh Post, he urged former CNRP members and supporters not to listen to Sam Rainsy’s “provocation and appeals.”

 
X
 
 
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

People running away as Riot Police fire tear gas on protests in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019.

© 2019 Tariq Keblaoui
 
(Beirut) – Lebanon’s security forces used excessive and unnecessary force against protesters in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. The Internal Security Force’s riot police fired tear gas at thousands of largely peaceful protesters, including children, in downtown Beirut. The army cleared the areas, sometimes using excessive force, as riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at fleeing protesters.
 
The anti-government demonstrations, which began on the evening of October 17, were prompted by the government’s announcement of new taxes, including on the messaging application WhatsApp, which it revoked hours later due to popular outrage. However, the countrywide protests devolved into expressions of anger against the entire political establishment, whom they blame for the country’s dire economic situation.
 
“Instead of protecting protesters demanding reform, Lebanese security forces beat and arrested them, causing far more havoc than the protesters,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This should be a wake-up call to the Lebanese government that they can’t abuse the patience of their long-suffering citizens forever.”
 

Protesters demand government resignation in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019.

© 2019 Aya Majzoub/Human Rights Watch
 
Thousands of protesters gathered across Beirut decrying what they called the government’s corruption and economic mismanagement and calling for its resignation. Similar protests took place in cities across the country, including Tripoli, Jbeil, Baalback, Saida, Sour, and Nabatieh.
 
Human Rights Watch observed the protests in Beirut, which took place downtown, in Hamra, and the main highway to the airport. During the day, thousands of people who appeared to be from a variety of sects, socioeconomic classes, and ages gathered in downtown Beirut, chanting against corruption and seeking the formation of a new government.
 
Although most protesters in central Beirut appeared to be peaceful, some young men looted construction sites, including Bechara al-Khoury Street, and blocked roads with burning tires and trash, including around downtown Beirut and entrances to the city, impeding access to the airport. Human Rights Watch also observed a small number of protesters in front of the Grand Serail – the Prime Minister’s headquarters – throw fireworks at riot police guarding the building.
 
Around 8 p.m. on October 18, Human Rights Watch saw riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds at the largest gathering, in front of the Grand Serail, without warning, causing panic. Thousands tried to flee down one main road, El Amir Bachir Street, as the army blocked many side roads.
 

Riot Police fire tear gas onto demonstrators in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019.

© 2019 Tariq Keblaoui
 
Human Rights Watch observed dozens of people having trouble breathing and vomiting from tear gas inhalation, including women and children. Some protesters were carrying people who had fainted because of tear gas. Riot police also fired tear gas at the dispersing crowds.
 
“Lebanon’s security forces are among the best-funded government employees in the country,” Whitson said. “Clearly the government isn’t spending enough on training security forces on the appropriate and lawful use of tear gas.”
 
Human Rights Watch spoke with a protester who was seriously injured by a rubber bullet. The 32-year-old musician, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation, said that he and other demonstrators were playing music in Riad al-Solh, near the Grand Serail, when they saw the tear gas smoke. He was trapped between riot police and the tear gas, with nowhere to run. He said he saw a riot police officer point at him and then another officer fired a rubber bullet directly at him.
 
The musician said he covered his face with his hands and realized one of his fingers was hanging off. He got to a hospital where he said a doctor warned he may lose his finger. He said he saw many injured in the hospital, including one person shot in the face by a rubber bullet.
 
“Their [riot police] intention was to hurt us, not just to disperse us,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They shot directly at my face, not at my legs or in the air.”
 
After the security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets, many protesters in downtown Beirut responded by smashing shopfronts and looting stores. Human Rights Watch observed security forces clearing protesters on El Amir Bachir Street, Syria Street, and Bechara al-Khoury Street. Riot police fired tear gas at crowds as the army advanced, clashing with some protesters.
 
Videos show security forces apparently using excessive force against protesters. A local TV station showed footage that appeared to show a riot police officer violently kicking and beating a protester. In a video shared by a local journalist, a soldier appeared to repeatedly hit a fallen protester with a baton as another soldier seems to try to stop the journalist from filming. Images circulated on social media show individuals lined up face down on the streets after apparently being arrested by the security forces for participating in the protests. Human Rights Watch was not able to independently verify these images.
 
Ziad, a 38-year-old sound engineer arrested by riot police at around 9:30 p.m. in downtown Beirut, told Human Rights Watch that five police officers ran over and started punching him despite him raising his hands in surrender. He said they took him to security vehicles parked near Banks Street and forced him and other protesters to lie face down with their hands tied as security officers hit and insulted them. Less than an hour later, security forces put him and 35 other detainees in a military vehicle and took them to Al-Helo police station. Ziad said that he was not mistreated in the station and was released on October 19.
 
It is unclear how many protesters were injured or arrested on October 18. The Internal Security Forces announced the arrest of 70 individuals, but activists estimate that the total is close to 300. Other activists are reporting that many of those arrested were released bearing marks of abuse.
 
The Lebanese authorities should respond to the demonstrations in a proportional and lawful manner. They should release anyone arrested solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression and assembly, Human Rights Watch said. The government should initiate an independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the security forces and compensate victims of unlawful force by the security forces.
 
Under United Nations basic principles, law enforcement officials may only use force “when strictly necessary.” Should they use force, they must exercise restraint and ensure any use of force is proportionate. If security forces cause serious injuries, there should be an independent investigation leading to prosecutions, if the use of force is found to be unlawful.
 
“There is no excuse for beating and arresting peaceful protesters,” Whitson said. “The Lebanese authorities can’t beat the grievances out of their citizens and think these problems will go away.”
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Lawyer Alyona Popova speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow, Russia.

© AP Photo/Vladimir Kondrashev

Russian women’s rights activist Alyona Popova has filed a lawsuit against the Moscow city government, claiming its use of video with facial recognition technology violates privacy rights.

The lawsuit, filed in early October 2019, says the system processes citizens’ biometric data without their written consent violating Russia’s law on personal data and the right to privacy guaranteed in the Russian constitution. A hearing is scheduled for October 21.

Popova was detained on the spot in 2018 for holding a peaceful protest outside parliament against sexual harassment. A court fined her 20,000 rubles for violating Russia’s strict protest law. However, Popova claims that the surveillance video recording the picket used facial recognition technology, and even if not used to detain her in 2018, it violates her privacy and could put her at risk of future harassment and violations.

Facial recognition can track where people go, what they do, and who they meet. Its use can potentially restrict basic freedoms and make people feel less inclined to meet with others, or express themselves freely.

These concerns are valid in all societies, but they could prove even more serious for people living in authoritarian countries like Russia. Last month, journalists reported that Moscow’s authorities had ordered facial recognition technology for monitoring mass gatherings, which could identify participants in real-time. After the crackdown on recent peaceful protests and harsh sentences for protesters, this is a disturbing prospect.

In May 2019, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced plans to create one of the world’s biggest video surveillance systems with facial recognition, with more than 200,000 CCTV cameras.

Fears in Russia around facial recognition are valid. We have already seen what can happen in countries like China, where the government uses an elaborate system to track and monitor the movements of Uyghurs, an ethnic minority, across the country.

Russian civil society is speaking out against the use of facial recognition technology. Roskomsvoboda, a digital rights group, started a “Ban Cam” campaign, to stop the use of facial recognition until full transparency and security is ensured. As of today, more than 1,400 people signed a similar petition by Popova.

Russia needs more public discussions about how the use of facial recognition technology complies with Russia’s human rights obligations. Hopefully this will happen in the wake of Popova’s case, and beyond.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Revolutionary graffiti adorns a wall of the Prime Minister's office in Tunis, January 22, 2011.
© 2011 Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly

(Tunis) – Tunisian authorities are using laws on criminal defamation, “spreading false information,” and “harming others via public telecommunications networks” to prosecute people for their online commentary, Human Rights Watch said today.

Courts have sent at least six Tunisians to prison since 2017 for their posts on social media about politics and other issues of public interest. Most recently, a court sentenced Yacine Hamdouni to six months in prison on June 6, 2019 for accusing a senior security official of corruption.

“The steady procession of police summons and charges against citizens who comment online on corruption, public services, pollution, and the like threatens to close the space that the 2011 revolution opened for expression,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Lawmakers should move quickly to amend laws that criminalize peaceful speech, including laws on insulting the president of the republic, on spreading “false information,” and defamation, which should be made a civil rather than a criminal matter. The authorities should stop using these laws to prosecute people for their online commentary on matters of public interest.

These laws restrain speech via all means of public communication. When people express themselves via social media, a charge under article 86 of the 2001 Telecommunication Code of “willfully or knowingly harming others via public telecommunications networks” is routinely added to the other charges. This alone carries a penalty of up to two years in prison. Article 86 should be amended to prevent its use to punish peaceful speech, Human Rights Watch said.

Those who have gone to prison since 2017 for social media posts include Hamdouni and Ahmed Najeh, Sahbi Amri, Naim Haj Mansour, Mahdi Shili, and Mohamed Yacine Amri. At least another three, Dali Mak, Amina Mansour, and Maha Naghmouchi spent nights in jail after being arrested.

The police arrested Hamdouni at his home in Tunis on May 28. They took him to the Anti-Crime Police Brigade in Gorjani and interrogated him about two Facebook posts from May. In those posts, he accused a senior security official of corruption by using an official car for private purposes, his brother, Hedi Hamdouni, who is also his lawyer, told Human Rights Watch. On June 6, a Tunis First Instance court convicted Hamdouni, a civil servant, of defamation, dissemination of “false information,” accusing officials of wrongdoing without providing proof, and “harming others via public telecommunication networks,” and sentenced him to one year in prison, reduced to six months on appeal. He is currently in Mornaguia Prison.

Tunisia’s post-revolutionary constitution guarantees “freedom of opinion, thought, expression, information, and publication.” However, parliament has yet to amend the penal code provisions as well as those of other existing codes that criminalize speech to harmonize them with the constitution. 

Parliament has also failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to establish a constitutional court empowered to strike down laws that the court finds unconstitutional, so defendants cannot appeal to that body when they face prosecution under repressive laws that seem to violate Tunisia’s supreme legal text. This deprives Tunisians of a key safeguard against criminal prosecutions on charges that violate their human rights. 

“When Tunisia’s new parliament convenes toward the end of the year, it should act swiftly both to eliminate laws that criminalize peaceful speech and to establish the constitutional court,” Goldstein said. “These are two of the biggest remaining gaps in rights protections in the country nine years after the revolution.”

For details of the cases that went to prosecution and other cases of arrests and questioning that did not result in convictions, please see below.   

The following are other recent cases of Tunisians imprisoned, prosecuted or questioned for their social media postings.

Ahmed Najeh is a 26-year-old football fan and company owner from Gabes. On March 31, 2019, the judicial police for southern Gabes phoned Najeh and asked him to come in for questioning. Toumi Ben Farhat, his lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that he advised Najeh not to go without an official summons. The police arrested Najeh that day. Arriving at the police station, the police took his cellphone and took a screenshot of a Facebook post he had made on April 7, 2018. The post concerned a Tunisian football fan, Omar Abidi, 19, who had drowned seven days earlier, reportedly after a police chase.  

In his post, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, Najeh mentioned a popular rap song, “Boulisiya Kleb” (local dialect for “Cops are Dogs”), which denounces police repression and corruption. Najeh’s post included the hashtag “Taalam Oum” (“Learn how to swim”), a phrase that a policeman allegedly used when Abidi was struggling to stay afloat. 

The police detained Najeh for two nights, and on April 10, the public prosecutor at Gabes First Instance Court extended his detention for two more nights.

On April 13, the Gabes First Instance Court convicted Najeh under article 86 of the Code of Telecommunications for “harming others via public telecommunications networks” and sentenced him to six months in prison. The Gabes Court of Appeals reduced his sentence to one month in prison and freed him on April 29.

Mahdi Shili, from Kef, spent time in Mornaguia prison for posts on Facebook that he wrote between February and March 2019 about his firing from a civil service job, his lawyer. Mohamed Ali Bouchiba, told Human Rights Watch. A Tunis First Instance sentenced him to two years in prison in absentia for his posts. Authorities nevertheless took him into custody. A court then tried Shili in his presence on April 23 and acquitted him.

Sahbi Amri and his son Mohamed Yacine Amri were both imprisoned for Facebook posts.

Authorities have detained and prosecuted Sahbi Amri several times in recent years in connection with posts alleging corruption and criticizing public officials and the judiciary and other government institutions. In January 2019, a Tunis First Instance Court sentenced him, in two different cases, to a total of five and-a-half years in prison, for charges that include violating article 86 of the code of telecommunications and article 128 of the penal code, which punishes accusing public officials of crimes related to their jobs without furnishing proof with up to two years in prison. He served time in Mornaguia prison. 

Authorities arrested Mohamed Yacine Amri on January 15, 2019 for Facebook posts, including his reposting of one by his father criticizing a senior judicial official, accompanied by his own denunciation of his father’s imprisonment. Like his father, authorities prosecuted him under article 128 of the penal code. He spent three months in prison and was freed in April.

The authorities have prosecuted Naim Haj Mansour, manager of the blog Thawra News (News of the Revolution), three times since 2011, for blog posts critical of the military and the Interior Ministry. The Gorjani Anti- Crime Unit interrogated Haj Mansour on September 18, 2018, one day after authorities arrested Sahbi Amri for a Facebook post critical of a senior judicial official. The authorities accused both Haj Mansour and Sahbi Amri of writing similar posts. On September 19, 2018 a Tunis First Instance Court charged Haj Mansour with harming others via public telecommunications networks and spreading false information, among other charges, and sentenced him to two and-a-half years in prison. An Appeals Court reduced the sentence to a suspended one-year prison term. Haj Mansour was released from prison in February 2019.

Aymen Jbeli, 26, from the municipality of Krib in the governorate of Siliana, runs a Facebook page called Mendhar Misti, where users debate local and national issues. Jbeli told Human Rights Watch that in late 2018, he accused a medical waste management company of dumping waste on land meant for agricultural use. Jbeli said that the land is also close to a residential area. He accused the company owner of negligence, polluting the environment, and endangering health.

Jbeli also helped to organize a sit-in at the site where the waste was allegedly being dumped. The sit-in organizers distributed flyers on the dangers of pollution.

On March 12, 2019, the Krib police summoned Jbeli and questioned him the next day. Jbeli said that they asked him about his civic activities.

Rafik Talbi, Jbeli’s lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that the company owner had filed a complaint against Jbeli for defaming her and her company. The judicial police of Siliana interrogated Jbeli on March 14. On March 29, the Siliana First Instance court acquitted him of the charges.

Oussama Rezgui, 26, also faced questioning because of accusations he made on a Facebook page he maintains, devoted to local news. On his page, Doukhaniya, Rezgui accused the managers of a farm of corruption and mismanagement allegedly in connection with the death of cows and demanded an investigation. Rezgui said that on September 22, 2018, the Siliana judicial police summoned him for questioning. They informed Rezgui that the center’s director had accused him of defamation. In April, Rezgui told Human Rights Watch that Siliana judicial police phoned him again and asked him to report for further questioning. The judicial police also asked him to find other means of criticism and to change his ways. The police have not contacted Rezgui since then.

Zaghouan judicial police summoned Faycel Mbarki, a political activist, on March 25, 2019, one week after he denounced on Facebook what he described as the shifting political allegiances of a member of parliament representing the Zaghouan region. The deputy shifted his allegiance five times to bolster his chances for re-election, Mbarki’s post contends. The Public Prosecutor of Zaghouan’s First Instance Court declined to press charges.

The First Anti-Brigade Unit of the National Guards of Ben Arous interrogated Saloua Charfi, a professor at the Institute of Press and Information Sciences (IPSIE), on May 2, 2019, in response to a citizen complaint over a Facebook post that she wrote in June 2018. In her post, Charfi denounced those who, she said, misrepresented episodes of early Islamic history to defend the raids by extremist groups on Tunisian towns to collect food and money.

Charfi told Human Rights Watch that she took down the post the day she wrote it because she did not want to offend anyone. This did not prevent six men who identified themselves as “Muslims representing other Muslims in Tunisia and abroad” From filing a complaint against her. The complaint, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, accused Charfi of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and his disciples, violating the sanctity of battles in early Islamic history, and using derogatory terms that aim to disturb the general peace. Charfi has not heard from the police since they questioned her.

The investigating judge of the Tunis appeals court questioned Hedi Hamdouni, a lawyer and the brother of Yassine Hamdouni, in March 2019, following a complaint related to a comment Hedi Hamdouni had posted earlier that month. Hamdouni had alleged that a woman appointed to participate in a state investigation commission into the death of 15 babies at Rabta public hospital in Tunis between March 6 and 8, 2019, should have been ineligible for such an appointment because of a commercial conflict of interest.

The woman filed a complaint against Hamdouni for defaming her. An investigating judge questioned Hamdouni but has not charged him.

Like Hamdouni, Maha Naghmouchi, who is an aesthetician-in-training, says that she took to Facebook on March 11, 2019, to respond angrily to the infant deaths at Rabta Hospital. Maha also wrote disparagingly and using vulgar terms about the police in the same post, which Human Rights Watch viewed.

“I deleted the post a few hours after writing it,” Naghmouchi said. “On that day, I received a call from an acquaintance who works at the judicial police who told me to delete any objectionable private messages that I might have on my phone. They said that the police are planning to interrogate me and advised that I take a shower and get ready because the police might come to arrest me at any time. They came three days later.”

On March 14, at 10:30 a.m., judicial police officers, some in uniform and others in civilian clothing, came to Naghmouchi’s house in Jendouba, a city in northwest Tunisia. Naghmouchi said that she was still in her pajamas when the officers handcuffed her, without explaining the reasons for her arrest. Naghmouchi said that when she asked for an explanation, the police replied, “It’s nothing.” Saida Radhouani, Maha’s mother, told Human Rights Watch that “When I told the police to let me get her a lawyer, they said that she doesn’t need one and that she will be released soon. She just has to sign on a commitment that she won’t write about the police again or apologize to us!”

At the police station, Naghmouchi said, eight or nine plainclothes officers questioned her, asking why she wrote the post, who encouraged her to do so, and why she had cursed the police. The officers also asked Naghmouchi to take a urine test, suspecting that her judgment was impaired when she wrote the post, she said. She spent three nights in Bellarigia civil prison.

On March 18, the Jendouba First Instance Court put her on trial for harming others via public telecommunication channels and using drugs. Authorities released Naghmouchi that day. On April 10, the same court sentenced her to a suspended term of one month in prison under article 86 of the code of telecommunications but acquitted her on the drug charges. She has appealed her conviction.

The National Guards of Gebili, in the governorate of Douz, interrogated Alaa Abd Daher on October 31, 2018 about his posts critical of Mahbouba bin Dhifallah, a parliament member from the Nahdha party who represents the region.

Abd Daher questioned whether bin Dhifallah had brought benefits to the region she represents.

Abd Dhaher also mocked bin Dihifallah’s Facebook post cheering the victory in Turkey of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the June 2018 elections. Abd Dhaher asked bin Dhifallah if she was herself Turkish and denounced what he described as her failure to serve well the Tunisians who had elected her to parliament. Abd Dhaher also wrote other critical posts about bin Dhifallah and Ennahdha.

On March 18, 2019, Abd Dhaher received a summons order from the criminal chamber of the First Instance Court in Gebili, to be tried for “harming others via public telecommunication networks,” under article 86 of the code of telecommunications. On April 10, Gebili First Instance Court convicted him on this charge and sentenced him to two months in prison, suspended. He has appealed.

Five judicial police officers from the Ben Bhar district of Sousse, wearing civilian clothes, arrested and handcuffed Najib Hwimdi, 36, on October 13, 2017, following a complaint from the head of the Sousse judicial police. The complaint accused Hwimdi of undermining the state and mocking and questioning the credibility of the president and other high-level state officials.

At the station, Houimdi sat handcuffed while some police officers mocked his writing style and referred to some language mistakes that he made, he told Human Rights Watch. Then, two officers questioned him for nearly two hours about eight blog posts that he wrote during September 2017.

In his posts, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, Houimdi criticized then-president Beji- Caid Essebsi’s prolongation of the state of emergency, spoke of a coming revolution that “will burn down all the traitors” and denounced the poor infrastructure in the Sousse region that had led to a building collapse, killing six people. Houimdi also said that the head of the government, Youssef Chahed, the governor of Sousse, and the head of the municipality take responsibility for what happened. Houimdi described Essebsi as suffering from dementia. The police detained Houimdi for three days. He said he slept on the floor each night.

On October 16, 2017, the police presented Houimdi to the public prosecutor of Sousse’s First Instance Court, who asked why he had disparaged the president and state officials. Houimdi was released the same day. Over several sessions, the court tried him on charges of insulting the president and defamation under articles 67, 245, and 247 of the penal code and article 86 of the code of telecommunications. On December 27, 2017, the court convicted Houimdi and fined him 600 dinars (US$159). The Sousse Court of Appeal upheld the sentence on June 27, 2019.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Media and members of Uganda's Human Rights Network for Journalists struggle with police as they protest outside the Daily Monitor newspaper head office, May 28, 2013. (File)

© AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie
 
Uganda is once again targeting media outlets it believes to be critical of the government.

Last week, Uganda’s media regulatory body, the Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC), accused 13 radio and television stations of violating broadcasting standards over their coverage of opposition groups. It directed five of the media outlets to explain why their licenses should not be suspended, cautioned several others, and suspended a radio show.

In April 2019, all 13 stations had aired news reports covering the arrest of opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, and members of other opposition groups. At the time, the UCC ordered the stations to suspend their staff as the government investigated the alleged breaches of minimum broadcasting standards.

The UCC said its investigations were prompted by allegations in late April by the Uganda Police Force and other security agencies that media coverage of opposition activities and altercations between protesters and security agencies were biased and intended to rile up the public and created the impression that the country was “descending into chaos.”

This is just the latest example of the authorities targeting political opposition activities.

Also last week, police cancelled a planned concert for independence day by Kyagulanyi, who was a pop star before becoming a politician, saying the event posed a security risk. Then police surrounded his home to block him from leaving.

In 2019, police blocked Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) rallies in Lira, Kasese, and Mbale, where they arrested FDC president Partick Oboi Amuriat and three others, claiming the party had failed to obtain clearance to hold the rallies.

Last April, radio stations in Lira district said they had been warned against hosting Dr. Kizza Besigye and other members of the FDC. Police stopped Besigye from appearing on radio three times.

In February, the UCC ordered the Daily Monitor, an independent newspaper, to shut down its website after the speaker of parliament claimed the newspaper published misleading information. The Daily Monitor took down the article but did not shut down its website.

Restrictions that target peaceful political speech and activities violate basic freedoms of expression and assembly and the right of Ugandans to access information about what is happening in their country. The authorities should stop targeting media for giving airtime to political opponents or critics with dissenting views.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Bangladesh Student Union stage a torch light procession rally to protest the murder of Abrar Fahad, a student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), who was allegedly beaten to death by Bangladesh Chhatra League men. 

© 2019 Syed Mahamudur Rahman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On October 6, Abrar Fahad, 21, was summoned from his dorm room at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) to Room 2011, known among students as the “torture cell.” The room is run by members of the Chhatra League, the student wing of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League. A few hours later, Fahad was found dead.

The Chhatra League’s assistant secretary at the university told the media that the group interrogated Fahad about his involvement with Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the Islamist organization Jamaat-e-Islami. They claimed to have found “evidence” of Fahad’s ties to Shibir after looking through his Facebook account and confiscating his cell phone.

CCTV footage shows students carrying Fahad’s limp body from Room 2011 in the middle of the night. Dhaka Medical College Hospital Forensics reported that he died of internal hemorrhaging from numerous blows to his body. Police told the media they found cricket stumps in room 2011, which they suspect were used to beat Fahad to death.

This deadly incident is not surprising. The Awami League government has long refused to hold Chhatra League supporters accountable for acts of violence and intimidation. There are complaints of extortion, threatening false allegations, violent attacks around elections, and even acting as vigilante law enforcers during the 2018 student protests.

Thousands of students protested Fahad’s killing. His father has brought a case against 19 people and police have so far arrested 13, mostly members of the Chhatra League. 

But Fahad’s killing reflects a deeper failing by the Bangladesh government to bring those responsible for politically motivated abuses to justice. A government that ignores torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings by security forces, and arbitrary arrests over dissent begets a culture where students can run a “torture cell” on a university campus.

Bangladesh authorities should ensure a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into Abrar Fahad’s murder, and hold all those responsible to account.  

Bangladesh should not be a Room 2011.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Mourners carry the flag-draped coffin of a protester killed during a demonstration in Najaf, October 8, 2019.

© 2019 AP Photo/Anmar Khalil

(Beirut) – Iraqi security forces have used excessive and unnecessary lethal force in confronting at times rock-throwing protesters, killing at least 105 and wounding over 4,000 since October 1, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces followed protesters as they dispersed, shooting at them and spraying them with scalding water cannons.

The protests started in Baghdad and southern cities on October 1, with protesters demanding improved services and more action to curb corruption. Apparent members of security forces interfered with media coverage of the protests, and the authorities blocked the internet. After Baghdad’s governor resigned on October 6, in response to complaints about forces in the capital resorting to excessive force, Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi formed a committee to investigate allegations of excessive use of force, ordered certain army units out of specific Baghdad neighborhoods, and stated that investigations of certain officers had begun. 

“For more than a decade, Iraqi governments have said they would investigate abuses by security forces but haven’t done so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The killing of at least 105 protesters requires a transparent investigation that results in public findings and accountability for abuses.”

The number who died from gunfire or other means is uncertain. On October 10, nongovernmental Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq informed Human Rights Watch that its field offices across the country reported that at least 105 protesters had been killed and another 4,050 wounded. On October 6, the Interior Ministry put the number killed at 96, with 6,100 wounded. The Interior Ministry also said that eight security force members had been killed and more than 1,200 injured.

Altogether, Human Rights Watch interviewed 14 witnesses to the protests in Baghdad and Dhi Qar governorate. Five protesters who were at three days of demonstrations in Dhi Qar in southern Iraq said that they saw various security forces open fire on crowds and as people were dispersing, without warning. All saw demonstrators throw rocks at security forces and set fire to tires, cars, and political party offices. Some injured security force personnel were taken away in ambulances, they said.

Five witnesses at demonstrations in Baghdad on October 2, 3, and 6 said that they saw security forces fire on crowds. They also said that the security forces fired water cannons that used scalding hot water, in some cases burning protesters severely. One protester said that at the protest on October 3, he heard security forces calling out that if the crowds did not disperse, they would open fire.

At the October 3 protest in Baghdad, a Reuters reporter said he saw one protester fall to the ground after being shot in the head. A Reuters cameraman saw a man critically wounded by a gunshot to the neck after snipers on rooftops fired on the crowd.

Those involved in treating the injured were not spared arrest and attack. A medic in Baghdad said security forces at the October 3 protest arrested her in the ambulance in which she was providing medical treatment to protesters. A witness to a protest in Baghdad on October 5 said that she saw security forces fire teargas directly at a convoy of ambulances, hitting the last one.

Human Rights Watch reviewed seven videos that appear to show live fire in the vicinity of protesters fleeing the area. One video posted on October 8 shows a solitary protester waving a flag and then being struck down by an apparent gunshot.

Human Rights Watch also reviewed three videos that appear to show protesters using violence. An October 1 video shows protesters in front of a recognizable Baghdad building destroying a police vehicle. No security force personnel are visible in the video. A video posted on October 6, which said it was filmed in Qadisya governorate, shows protesters throwing rocks in the direction of live fire.

Most of those killed at a Baghdad protest on October 4 were struck by gunfire in the head and heart, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Saad Maan. He said the ministry was investigating the deaths, but did not provide details. On October 6, he said that security forces did not confront the protesters, but that “malicious hands” were behind targeting both protesters and security forces. He said protesters had burned 51 public buildings and eight political party headquarters. International standards provide that law enforcement may only intentionally make lethal use of firearms when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

All witnesses interviewed said they saw security forces detaining people at the protests, including as they were fleeing the area. On October 10, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq said authorities detained at least 923 protesters but have since released at least 666.

A lawyer on a team of volunteers providing legal aid to about 400 detained protesters in Baghdad said on October 9 that many of the protesters were charged for gathering with the intent to commit a crime under article 222 of the penal code. Others were charged with publicly insulting a government body under article 226. He said that most of detainees he interviewed told him that security forces had beat them at the time of arrest.

Since the demonstrations began, the authorities appear to have interfered with the media and telecommunications in violation of the right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. An October 7 statement from the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate condemned raids on the offices of the news outlets Al Arabiya, Dijlah, NRT, Al Hadath and TRT by armed and masked gunmen, some in military uniform. The raids appeared aimed to prevent coverage of the protests.

From October 2 to 8, Iraqi authorities blocked most access to the internet for prolonged periods of time, rendering social media and messaging apps that protesters and others relied on to communicate and document government abuses inaccessible. International human rights law protects the right to freedom of expression, including the right to freely seek, receive, and provide information through the internet and other media. While national security is a legitimate basis for restrictions on freedom of expression, these restrictions must be necessary and proportionate to address a specific security concern.

On October 3, the government imposed day and nighttime curfews in Baghdad, Babil, Diwaniya, Wasit, Muthanna, and Dhi Qar Governorates, but lifted them on October 5.

On October 6, Al-Mahdi also announced a list of executive decisions focusing on building about 100,000 units of low-income housing, and improving unemployment benefits and vocational training to address some of the protesters’ demands. He also decreed that those killed in the protests, whether demonstrators or security personnel, would be considered “martyrs” eligible for state benefits.

Iraqi national and provincial authorities should impartially investigate the use of force by the security forces at the protests. They should investigate all allegations of security forces interfering in the provision of medical services and ensure that all those wounded have access to immediate and unimpeded care. Security force members, including commanders, responsible for the use of unnecessary or excessive lethal force should be disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate.

Victims of unlawful use of force by the security forces should receive prompt and adequate compensation. Authorities should take specific action to protect media workers from attack and investigate any acts that infringe on media coverage of the protests. Detainees who have not been charged with a recognizable offense should be immediately released.

“The authorities should impartially investigate the decisions to fire on protesters and to hose them with scalding water,” Whitson said. “Iraqis deserve answers, and the government should not again be able to announce a committee that doesn’t produce any results.”

Attacks on the Media

A staff member at Dijlah said that on October 5 he was at their Baghdad office when unidentified assailants threw two stun grenades at the building, setting the generator on fire. The next morning, Diljah received a letter from the Communication and Media Commission ordering the station to shut down for one month for violating content guidelines with its protest coverage. A few hours later, dozens of masked gunmen in black clothes attacked their office. “They beat our employees and took their money and phones,” he said. “They destroyed everything in the office – computers, desks, and broadcasting equipment, and set the newsroom on fire.”

A senior executive at NRT said that after the TV station started broadcasting footage from the demonstrations, staff members received calls from government officials telling them that NRT had to stop airing protest footage. “After we aired an interview with a protester who alleged that a specific Popular Mobilization Forces group [units formally under the prime minister’s command] of killing protesters, I received a call from a blocked number demanding that we take down that specific footage,” she said. She said that on October 5, masked gunmen who did not identify themselves raided their offices, destroyed most of their equipment, and confiscated staff members’ phones. She said their office faces a Federal Police station, but forces there who witnessed the raid took no action to stop it.

A journalist who was at a Baghdad protest of about 30 people on October 2 said he was filming the protests to post on his social media page, and captured footage of uniformed SWAT officers and anti-riot police firing on peaceful protesters. He said that a policeman came up to him, grabbed his camera, and deleted its contents: “I told him I’m a journalist, but he said I’m not allowed to film anything and that I will be arrested if I stay.”

Dhi Qar Protests

A protester who was at the first day of protests in the town of Nasriya on October 1, said that he saw protesters throwing rocks at anti-riot police. Police responded by firing teargas, rubber bullets, and water cannon but also beating protesters with plastic pipes and then opening fire while chasing protesters away from the area. He said:

I saw one protester get shot in the leg while he was running away with us. We put him into a taxi to go to the hospital, because we could not get an ambulance to take him because the ambulances were next to the security forces. I saw another protester get shot in the heart in front of me as we were both running away – he had turned around to look back and see if he was being chased – and fall down dead. I saw anti-riot and SWAT [Special Weapons and Tactics] police open fire at another two boys with what looked like rubber bullets, wounding one in the arm and the other in the leg.

He said that when the protesters tried to burn down the office of Badr, a group within the Popular Mobilization Forces, anti-riot police and Badr security guards opened fire. He said he saw a sniper on the third floor of the building shooting at protesters as they approached the building. “Two protesters in our group got shot that day in front of the Badr office but I don’t know if the sniper hit them or someone else,” he said.

He said that later that day he and other protesters gathered outside the local Interior Ministry intelligence office and demonstrators set fire to an officer’s car. About 30 intelligence officers then fired on the crowd, he said. As the crowd dispersed he saw a protester who hadn’t fled hit by live fire and fall dead to the ground. He said he also saw three policemen beat a protester they caught trying to flee with metal and plastic pipes.

Another protester said that on October 2, he was with about 500 people protesting outside the office of the Popular Mobilization Forces group Asai`b Ahl al-Haqq in Shatra, a town north of Nasriya. After about 200 protesters started throwing rocks at the building and lighting tires on the road outside, two unidentified men on the roof fired on the crowd but did not injure anyone as far as he could tell, the protester said.

A third protester said he saw dozens of security force personnel arrive in about 30 vehicles marked with Police Tactical Support Unit (TSU) logos on the doors and open fire on protesters, wounding at least eight as they tried to flee. He said he got to his house in the area and from the window saw another three protesters hit by gunfire as they were running away. He was too frightened to check to see what happened to them.

A fourth protester said that at a protest of about 2,000 people on October 3, he saw SWAT, anti-riot police and TSU forces fire on crowds as they were crossing a bridge. He said a friend started cursing at the forces so they fired at him, hitting him three times in his legs and stomach. He said, “I ran over to him to help him but one of the SWAT officers said I had to leave him, or he would shoot me. My friend luckily survived after they took him to the hospital.”

He said that as the protesters were running away, policeman and men in black uniforms caught him and two other protesters. They took his phone and demanded his passcode, and then found a message he sent to a journalist in Baghdad reporting on the death toll at previous protests. They questioned him about whom he had shared this information with, then threw him out of the car onto the street and drove away with the other two protesters, he said.

A fifth protester said that some protesters hurled rocks at the anti-riot police in Nasriya on October 2. About 10 policemen grabbed and beat him with plastic pipes and their helmets, though he said he was not among those throwing rocks. They held him in a government office building where he said about 10 policemen and 2 men in civilian clothes beat him and two other protesters on and off for about three hours, with one accusing him of hitting a policeman. He said:

They moved us to another office where they held us until midnight, after which they moved us to Balida, a prison run by local police. They kept us there until they finally brought me before a judge on October 6, who told me I was being charged with article 226 of the Penal Code and then let me post bail and go home.

He said that while at the prison, he saw two protesters brought in six hours before he was released, one with a gunshot wound to the leg and another with a broken hand. He said both begged guards for medical attention but were ignored.

Baghdad Protests

One of the Baghdad protesters said that he was at a midnight protest on October 2 that remained peaceful. When protesters put garbage cans in the street to prevent security forces from approaching them, they opened fire on demonstrators. He said he felt something hit him. “I am not sure if it was a bullet or metal fragments, but I was seriously injured to my waist,” he said. “I didn’t go to the hospital though because I heard security forces are arresting people from the hospital.”

A medic said that she had also heard of arrests in the hospitals. The Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq told Human Rights Watch on October 8 that they had documented at least 35 cases in which security forces detained people at hospitals.

One Baghdad protester said that as he and others were fleeing the protest on October 2 security forces opened fire and followed them to a nearby gasoline station to arrest them but that they were able to escape.

The medic said that on October 2 she was working out of an ambulance parked near the main square of the protests from noon to 4 p.m., providing treatment to protesters. She said most of the people coming to her had been affected by teargas or had first, second and in a few cases third degree burns from scalding water shot from water cannons. She said she saw a few teargas cannisters that had expired in 2013. She said:

After 4 p.m., security forces in black uniforms opened fire over and at the crowds and we received many cases of people wounded by bullet fragments, providing first aid treatment to at least 200 protesters. Initially, security forces did not allow us to take those wounded to the hospital, preventing us from even getting close to them to put them in ambulances. They took them in their own vehicles. At about 6 p.m. authorities cut electricity in the area, prompting the protesters to light fires. I was busy giving first aid to an elderly protester who was suffering from asphyxiation from the tear gas and had facial injuries because he had been stampeded by fleeing protesters when three uniformed officers came and told me to stop treating him. I refused, saying he would die if I didn’t, so they arrested me.

They drove her to a police station nearby she said and released her after an hour without charge.

At a protest on October 6 in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood, medics said that clashes between security forces killed at least 15 protesters. A protester who was there said that roughly 1,000 protesters had gathered in one main square by 4 p.m. and were trying to walk in the direction of another square but Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) blocked the crowd. He said:

I spoke to an ISF colonel who told me, “Anyone trying to go to Qanat Square will be shot.” Then as some protesters tried to go in that direction, the ISF opened fire. Most of us ran away, but some protesters kept walking toward them, and I saw some get shot. Later when we tried to again go to Qanat Square, I saw one boy of about 17 who had been hiding behind a concrete block look over it to see if he could move safely. A gunshot hit him in the neck and he died.

The protester said that later the security forces again fired on the crowd twice more as they tried to advance. He saw five protesters get shot as they were running for cover. He said that protesters had to carry the dead and wounded for over one kilometer because ambulances had stayed away because of the live fire. A man who was at a nearby hospital that evening said that he saw four dead protesters brought in with gunshot wounds to their heads and chests, and at least 40 more wounded.

International Legal Protections

The Iraqi government is obligated under international human rights law to protect the right to free expression and peaceful assembly. Mere participation in a demonstration, including those without permits, or peacefully criticizing the government, are not grounds for arrest under international law. The authorities should release all protesters who have not been charged with a recognizable criminal offense. 

Iraqi security forces engaged in law enforcement duties should strictly abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The Basic Principles state that law enforcement officials should apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force. Whenever the use of force is unavoidable, they must act in proportion to the threat to life or serious injury. Firearms should never be used simply to disperse an assembly. If the use of force to disperse violent protests is unavoidable, for example to protect law enforcement or others from violence, the security forces must use only the minimum level of force necessary to contain the situation. Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

International human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), protects the right of people to freely seek, receive, and provide information and ideas through all media, including the internet. Security-related restrictions must be law-based and a necessary and proportionate response to a specific security concern. In July 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning measures by countries to prevent or disrupt online access and information, reiterating that online access is critical to free speech protections under the ICCPR.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong supports prominent blogger Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence. His sign reads, "I recommend the government of Vietnam to release Tran Huynh Duy Thuc." © Private 2018

© Private 2018

(New York) – Vietnamese police arrested a pro-democracy activist on September 23, 2019 based on his Facebook postings, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should immediately release the activist, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, and drop the charges against him.

Police in the southern province of Lam Dong have charged Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong with “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under article 117 of the country’s penal code. Under articles 173 and 74 of Vietnam’s Criminal Procedure Code, the national security charge means he can be both detained and denied access to legal counsel until the police conclude their investigation, a situation that is conducive to mistreatment or torture.

“The government thought to silence Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong by detaining him for expressing his opinions on Facebook,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But this has only focused more attention on his views, and the government’s repressive efforts to censor online material.”

While it is unclear exactly which of his Facebook postings the government objected to, his account reflects a wide range of independent views that the Vietnam Communist Party and government might find objectionable. None, however, involve incitement to crime, violence, hate speech, or other content that can be subject to any criminal charge consistent with the right to freedom of expression, which Vietnam pledged to respect by joining the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong has expressed views supporting democracy in Vietnam and criticized the Communist Party of Vietnam for corruption and monopolizing power. In one of his livestreams he said: “I am not certain that the entire state apparatus is corrupt, but I am 100 percent certain that those who have been involved in corruption are Communist Party members. Vietnam only allows one single party and does not allow any competing opposition.”

In other posts or livestreams, he has shared news about protests in Hong Kong and voiced support for a change of government in Venezuela. He has also shared stories about land confiscation issues in Vietnam and raised cases of various Vietnamese political prisoners including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Viet Dung, and Phan Kim Khanh.

Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, 28, lives in Don Duong district, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. According to an official communist party journal, in June 2018, he participated in a major protest in Ho Chi Minh City against the draft law on special economic zones and the newly passed cybersecurity law. The police reportedly fined him 750,000 VND (approximately US$32).

After his September arrest, state media quoted police, saying: “[O]ver the last two years, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong has used social media to make and distribute materials, propagandize and distort, blacken and slander the regime, offend the memory of President Ho Chi Minh and oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Police officials said they had warned him not to post critical material online, but that he did not stop.

His arrest is a part of an ongoing crackdown against critics and pro-democracy campaigners. During the first nine months of 2019, the Vietnamese authorities convicted at least 11 people, including Nguyen Ngoc Anh, Vu Thi Dung, and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong, and sentenced them to between two and nine years in prison for criticizing the government.

Others arrested for Facebook posts and shares include Nguyen Nang Tinh, a rights activist, in May and Pham Van Diep, a critic of the government, in June.

Vietnam’s problematic cybersecurity law went into effect in January. This overly broad and vague law gives the authorities wide discretion to censor free expression and requires service providers, including Facebook, to take down content the authorities consider offensive within 24 hours of receiving a request.

As of October 7, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong’s past posts remained on Facebook; but other posts by detained human rights defenders have often been taken down.

Several internet companies, as well as concerned governments and donors, have privately raised serious concerns with Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law and other abusive laws, and pushed back on some requests for content restriction. They should now publicly speak out against Vietnamese laws used to stifle free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

“Facebook, as one of the most widely used communications platforms in Vietnam, has leverage to publicly raise human rights concerns with the government,” Sifton said. “While the company is subject to pressure from Vietnam, it also has clout because of its immense popularity in the country.”

In August, Information and Communications Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said Facebook had complied with “70 to 75 percent” of the government’s recent requests to restrict content, up from “about 30 percent” previously. Among the materials Facebook removed, according to the ministry, were “more than 200 links to articles with content opposing the Party and the State.” It is unclear how the ministry arrived at these figures. The ministry did not disclose the bases for requests, and whether they were reported as violations of Vietnamese law or of Facebook’s “Community Standards.” (It is likely that authorities sometimes report material they consider “illegal” not as legal violations but instead under unrelated Community Standards violations, and then count removal as compliance.)

The ministry also said it asked Facebook to limit live-streaming capabilities on its platforms to accounts that Facebook has authenticated. It is unclear how Facebook will be expected to do that, or what criteria authenticated accounts would have to satisfy. The ministry said it told the company to “pre-censor” online content and remove advertisements “that spread fake news related to political issues upon request from the government.”

Facebook has previously told Human Rights Watch that its standards relating to takedowns and geographic blocking of content “are global.” The process for taking down or blocking content, Facebook said in a written communication, is the “same in Vietnam as it is around the world.” Reported content is first reviewed against the company’s Community Standards; if it passes muster, Facebook says it will then assess whether the government request is legally valid under local law and international human rights law.

Vietnam should bring its laws into line with international human rights standards, which require any restrictions on freedom of expression to be necessary and proportionate to fulfill legitimate aims, Human Rights Watch said, and internet companies should publicly press the government to do the same.

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Independent journalist and political opposition activist Farhod Odinaev was detained by Belarusian border guards on September 25 on a Tajik extradition request while crossing the Belarus-Lithuania border en route to a human rights conference in Poland.

© Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, year unknown.

(Berlin) – An independent journalist and political opposition activist risks torture or other ill-treatment if he is forcibly returned from Belarus to Tajikistan, a group of eleven human rights groups said today. Belarusian authorities should not extradite or deport the activist, Farhod Odinaev, or otherwise facilitate his forced return to Tajikistan.

“Tajikistan’s government is known for ‘transnational repression,’ routinely using politically motivated charges to reach beyond its borders to threaten and detain peaceful dissidents,” said Steve Swerdlow, senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Belarus has a binding obligation not to send Odinaev anywhere he could face torture or other ill-treatment, including to Tajikistan, and it should abide by this international commitment.”

The eleven groups are Amnesty International, the Association for Central Asian Migrants, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, Freedom House, Freedom Now, Human Constanta, Human Rights Center Viasna, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Reporters Without Borders.

Belarusian migration authorities detained Odinaev, a member of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), under a Tajik extradition request on September 25, 2019, after he attempted to cross the Belarus-Lithuania border. He had planned to travel from there to attend a human rights conference in Warsaw, Poland. Tajik authorities banned the party and declared it a terrorist organization in 2015, jailing its senior leadership and dozens of other members. Since then, Tajik authorities have engaged in a wide-ranging crackdown on the IRPT and other political activists in and outside the country, using extradition requests and INTERPOL “red notices” to detain them abroad.

Odinaev, 43, has been actively involved in the IRPT. In 2013, while living in Russia, he founded the Moscow-based TV Safo, an independent satellite television channel that broadcast programs about the plight of Tajik migrants in Russia as well as independent coverage of events in Tajikistan. Odinaev also worked for the nongovernmental organization Pomoshch’ Migrantam (“Aid to Migrants”).

Odinaev was traveling through Belarus en route to the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Europe’s largest human rights conference. He had planned to speak there on migration issues.

Odinaev had participated in the 2018 conference. Human Constanta, a Belarusian human rights organization that is providing legal assistance to Odinaev in Belarus, said that Russian authorities had conducted an inspection of Pomoshch’ Migrantam in 2013, at the behest of the Tajik authorities. Other sources close to Odinaev said that he felt the Tajik government was more actively targeting him in the year since the 2018 conference and learned that he may have been then added to a list of persons the Tajik government was seeking to detain abroad for involvement in anti-state crimes.

Since September 25, Odinaev has been held in the pretrial detention center in Grodno, Belarus, pending possible extradition to Tajikistan. According to Human Constanta, the prosecutor general’s office received documentation on the extradition request and that Tajik authorities have charged Odinaev with, among other offenses, “public calls for carrying out extremist activity” (art. 307(1)(2) of Tajikistan’s criminal code) and “organizing an extremist community” (art. 307(2)(1)). The Tajik authorities routinely invoke these and related charges, including terrorism in politically motivated cases.

In recent years, the Tajik government’s political crackdown has reached beyond the IRPT, as the authorities have intensified repression of free expression, peaceful assembly, and association by political opposition groups; curtailed the independence of the legal profession; and infringed on the independent exercise of religious faith. Since 2014, more than 150 political activists, lawyers, and government critics have been unjustly imprisoned. Relatives of dissidents who peacefully criticize the government from outside the country are regularly subjected to attacks by violent mobs and official acts of retaliation, such as arbitrary detention, threats of rape by security force members, and confiscation of passports and property.

“Belarusian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Odinaev and allow him passage to a safe third country,” said Marius Fossum, regional representative of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in Central Asia. “The United States, the European Union, and all of Belarus’ international partners should press Minsk not to extradite Odinaev to a risk of torture and should publicly voice serious concern over Tajikistan’s crackdown on freedom of expression.”

Tajikistan severely restricts religious freedom, regulating religious worship, dress, and education, and imprisons numerous people on vague charges of religious extremism. Tajik authorities also suppress unregistered Muslim education throughout the country, control the content of sermons, and have closed many unregistered mosques. Under the pretext of combating extremist threats, Tajikistan bans several peaceful minority Muslim groups.

Torture is illegal in Tajikistan but remains widespread. Police and investigators often torture detainees to coerce confessions, including from people associated with political opposition groups, such as the IRPT and the political opposition “Group 24.” During a March 2019 prison visit, imprisoned IRPT deputy chairman, Mahmadali Hayit, showed his wife injuries on his forehead and stomach that he said were caused by beatings from prison officials for refusing to record videos denouncing Tajik opposition figures abroad.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held there is a serious risk that a person forcibly returned to face anti-state charges in Tajikistan would be tortured or subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. The court also rejected as unreliable the Tajik government’s assurances that it would not subject anyone sent back to prohibited treatment.

As a party to the Convention against Torture and as a matter of customary international law, Belarus is obliged to ensure that it does not send anyone to a place where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

“Odinaev faces a high risk of torture if returned to Tajikistan,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “No technical assurances Dushanbe could provide to the contrary will suffice given its terrible record on torture. Belarus’ cooperation with Tajikistan as co-member state of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization should have no impact on its obligations under the Convention against Torture.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

 Facebook's logo is seen on an android mobile phone.

© 2018 Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Today, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia put billions of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp users’ privacy and security at grave risk by pressuring Facebook to stop plans to widely implement end-to-end encryption.

People live their private lives on these platforms, and they expect that their private lives stay private. Recognizing this, Facebook announced this year that it would limit its own ability to read the messages people share over its messaging platforms.

But now these three governments have demanded Facebook slow those plans. A letter signed by US Attorney General William Barr, US Director of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton asks that the company monitor encrypted communications on the messaging platforms and refer illegal activity to the authorities. They ask that Facebook allow law enforcement to bypass encryption on the platforms, a practice commonly called a “backdoor.”

Facebook routinely assists governments in prosecuting child abuse and preventing terrorism, as the letter acknowledges. Governments have a human rights obligation to investigate such crimes. The letter implies that end-to-end encryption will make these investigations impossible because Facebook will not be able to decrypt messages for its own analysis or for law enforcement. But communications surveillance is not the only tool in a government’s online crime-prevention toolbox. In the digital age, states have extraordinary technological capabilities to surveil, investigate, and prosecute.

The real issue is that many people rely on end-to-end encryption to stay safe and secure, from people facing persecution for their identities to human rights activists. The danger of a backdoor is that it opens widely. If some governments have access to decrypted messages, so will others, including repressive governments that want to use the tool abusively. Eventually, sophisticated cybercriminals will exploit backdoor access too.

A backdoor doesn’t guarantee more effective policing as the letter claims. Smart criminals will simply seek out tools with stronger encryption. Less tech-savvy people, meanwhile, will be left at risk of exploitation by rogue and criminal elements online.

As our collective lives shift to social media, we all become increasingly vulnerable to broad online surveillance. Easy-to-use encryption ensures that ordinary people can express themselves freely and securely online, without needing to stay up to date on the latest tech trends.

Digital surveillance and online exploitation become more common every year. This is precisely why Human Rights Watch joined digital rights groups, civil society advocates, and human rights activists worldwide to call on Facebook to protect end-to-end encryption by default and make it accessible to human rights defenders and everyday users alike.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am