International community calls for Kem Sokha's release
01Jan06--Cambodian human rights advocate Kem Sokha steadily
receives the international community's support for his
release after he was arrested last week on charges of
defamatory remarks against the Cambodian government.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise
Arbour issued a statement expressing "deep regret"
for the arrests and commented that the international community
"has reason to be deeply concerned." Arbour
emphasized Cambodia's being party to international human
rights treaties and reminded the Cambodian government
of their duty to "respect and ensure human rights…
including the rights to freedom of expression, association
Human Rights Watch warned that further arrests might
occur, given the climate of fear and uncertainty already
operating in Cambodia. The arrests violate the right to
freedom of expression and are contrary to the standards
set by the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
The declaration provides for the individual and collective
right to "promote and strive for the protection and
realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms"
and "participate in peaceful activities against violations
of human rights and fundamental freedoms."
United States Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli strongly criticized
the incident and referred to it as "another step
down the wrong path for Cambodia."
Reports on reasons of Sokha's arrest point to the handwritten
defamatory remarks against Prime Minister Hun Sen in the
banners of the December 10 international human rights
day rally that Sokha's organization, along with 63 other
groups, assembled. Although the organizers claimed that
the handwritten remarks did not come from them and that
the banners were put down after they took notice, Sokha
and another activist Yeng Virak, Director of the Community
Legal Education Center, were arrested by the Cambodian
police on 31 December 2005.
Kem Sokha is the executive director of the Cambodian
Center for Human Rights. He had been elected as a member
of the National Assembly and Senator, respectively, and
used to head the human rights committees of both.
The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
affirms the international community's call for the release
of Kem Sokha and others. The Working Group is an informal
coalition of individuals and groups working with ASEAN
governments and civil society towards the establishment
of an intergovernmental human rights mechanism in Southeast
Asia. It is organized into national working groups composed
of representatives of government institutions, parliamentary
human rights committees, academe, and non-government organizations.
Kem Sokha is the Chair of the Cambodian Working Group
for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.