De Lima urges Cambodian gov't to free human rights defenders | Global News
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De Lima urges Cambodian gov’t to free human rights defenders

/ 02:56 PM October 01, 2018

Detained Senator Leila de Lima called on the Cambodian government on Monday to free five human rights defenders (HRDs) who were sentenced to five years in prison for the “fabricated” charge of “bribery of a witness.”

“We call upon the Cambodian government to abide by the commitments it made both to the international community and to its own people by freeing these five HRDs,” she said on Monday in a dispatch from Camp Crame in Quezon City.

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De Lima reminded the Cambodian government that their state, just like the Philippines, has igned the 1998 United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights.

She noted that  Article 12 of the declaration mandates governments to recognize that HRDs are protected from “any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions.”

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“A strong government uses its might to protect and bring justice to all of its subjects,” she added.

According to De Lima, the case of the five Cambodian HRDs, known as the Khmer Five, stemmed from a  2016 incident “when the five provided legal assistance to a victim of government harassment, Srey Mom, who was allegedly involved in a extramarital affair with detained opposition leader Kem Sokha.”

During the trial on September 18, De Lima said “the five accused were denied the right to challenge the testimonies of prosecution witnesses.”

She said the five HRDs, namely Ay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Lim Mony, Yi Soksan and Ny Chakrya “were convicted despite the prosecution’s failure to identify the witness they allegedly bribed, and to present, in the first place, any credible evidence showing that a witness had indeed been bribed.”

“There is no doubt that those five brave persons are in jail because of the Cambodian authorities’ policy of intimidating HRDs and suppressing human rights work in an obvious move to suppress any form of criticism or opposition against the government,” the senator said.

She compared the situation of the Khmer Five to what is happening here in the Philippines, especially with her case.

“Ganitong-ganito rin ang nangyayari dito sa Pilipinas. Maraming human rights defenders ang tinatakot, sinisiraan, pinakukulong at tinutugis dahil sa kanilang gawain. Ang sitwasyon ko mismo ay patunay nito (This is similar to what is happening here in the Philippines. Many human rights defenders are harassed and jailed because of their work. My own situation is proof of this),” she said.

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The opposition senator, a staunch critic of the current administration, has been detained since February 2017 on alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

“And this phenomenon is inextricably connected to the bigger picture of a government that stifles dissent, muffles criticisms and ultimately smothers democracy in our country,” she added. /ee

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TAGS: Cambodia, Features, human rights defenders, Leila de Lima, Philippines
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