Judicial harrasment

  • Cambodia: Community representative Yorm Bopha imprisoned
    January 8, 2013

    On 4 September, 2012, Ms. Yorm Bopha, a pivotal figure in the protests against forced evictions of residents from the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh, was detained for allegedly assaulting a person who was suspected of stealing.

    In a separate case, Ms. Tim Sakmony, a leader in protests against forced evictions from Borei Keila, another area of Phnom Penh was arrested one day late, on 5 September 2012. The arrest came after the owner of Borei Keila developer Phanimex filed a complaint alleging that Ms. Sakmony made a “false declaration” in a request for the Phanimex Company to compensate her disabled son for having failed to provide him with an apartment after his eviction from Borei Keila in January 2012. Phaminex was originally granted land in Borei Keila conditional upon the construction of ten apartment buildings to rehouse residents, but has only built eight buildings. Ms. Sakmony was held in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison, pending judicial investigation for making a “false declaration to a public body for the purpose of obtaining an allowance, a payment or any unlawful advantage” under Article 633 of the Penal Code.

    On 26 March 2013, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Tim Sakmony to six months in prison but cut the sentence in half on probation reprieve. On 27 December 2012 the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Yorm Bopja to three years’ imprisonment for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances. The

    On 27 March 2013, the Cambodian Supreme Court denied Bopha’s request for bail pending her appeal. In June 2013, a Court of Appeals upheld Bopha’s conviction but reduced her sentence to two years. On 22 November 2013, the Supreme Court released Bopha on bail, ordering that her case be further investigated and re-tried.

    The families from the Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) community have been battling forced evictions since 2007, when the Government leased their land to a company, Shukaku Inc, for development. In May 2012, after 15 members of the BKL community were violently and arbitrarily arrested, Ms. Yorm Bopha was at the forefront of the campaign for their release. She maintained a high profile presence at every demonstration, became a media spokesperson for the campaign, and did not shy away from publicly criticizing government officials. This new- found prominence brought with it the attention of the authorities – she was verbally threatened, harassed and intimidated.

  • Cambodia: Three human rights workers and journalist summoned over incitement charges
    October 15, 2012

    On 11 October 2012, Ratanakkiri Provincial Court summonsed three well-known rights workers and a journalist to appear for questioning next week over years-old incitement charges in connection with a long-standing land dispute. In a summons signed by deputy provincial prosecutor Chea Sopheak, the court ordered Radio Free Asia journalist Sok Ratha, Adhoc activists Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy and Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Ou Virak to appear on 11 October.
    This is the second time in a year that Bonnar, Thy and Ratha have been questioned by the court. The two Adhoc employees left the province in 2009 after threats that they would be charged with incitement to terrorism, though both returned the following year.
    All four maintain that they were only investigating the case of 60 ethnic Tampuon families from Ratanakkiri province embroiled in a dispute with the DM Group for years. Villagers say the well-connected rubber company encroached on 260 hectares of land and have sought to fight the company in court. However, those complaints have been repeatedly ignored even as complaints against rights groups and villagers involved in the case have gone through.
    Sopheak defended the timing of the summons, saying that, though the complaint dates to 2009, he has only just been able to follow up on it. “This time we’re free, so we take it up,” he explained. Speaking to the Post yesterday, Virak and Bonnar both denied the allegations. “I cannot accept this accusation, because it is so serious,” said Bonnar. “I did not incite people to commit a crime.” Virak insisted that he had only met with villagers to look into their allegations. However, he was not surprised to hear of the summons.
    “It’s not strange to me. It’s a political issue, and rich people always influence the court system.” He noted, the timing of the questioning – which comes in the wake of the Mam Sonando case and a similar summons issued for senior Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth – could raise eyebrows. “Maybe they want to put pressure on the NGOs, all of the activists.”

  • Thailand: Labour activists charged after peaceful assembly
    August 26, 2012

    On 27 August 2009, Ms Jittra Kotchadej, Ms Boonrod Paiwong, and Mr Soonthorn Boonyord led a peaceful assembly in front of the Parliament House in Bangkok, demanding the government to take action to assist 2,000 workers dismissed by Triumph International factories. The members of the Labour Union had earlier met with the secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who promised that he would look into the dismissal. The demonstration consisted of around 400 women labour activists from the Triumph International Labour Union, the Electronic and Mechanic Labour Union, and the World Garment Factory Labour Union, as well as human rights defenders from non-governmental organisations working on labour rights.
    When the workers arrived at the Government House, no government official came out to talk to them so they moved to the parliament and received the same treatment. In response to their peaceful demonstration, the police used Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) as a means to forcefully disperse the demonstration. Many of the labour activists were later diagnosed with ear problems as a result of the usage of the LRAD machine by the police.
    On 27 January 2011, the public prosecutor officially charged Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord under Section 215 and 216 of the Criminal Code. . Section 215 states that “If the offender is leading an act [which threatens violence or to cause a breach of peace], he/she shall be punished for the maximum of five years imprisonment or fined not exceeding ten thousands baht or both”. Section 216 states that “[w]hen an official orders any person assembled under section 215 to disperse and such person does not disperse, he/she shall be imprisoned for the maximum of three years or fined for the maximum of six thousands baht or both”.
    They could be imprisoned, if found guilty, for a maximum jail term of five years and/or each be fined up to 10,000 Thai Baht (EUR 247). All three human rights defenders had submitted assets worth 100,000 Thai Baht (USD 3,245) each after the police at Dusit Precinct issued arrest warrants against them.
    Jittra Kotchadej is an adviser of the Triumph International Labour Union. Boonrod Paiwong is the former Secretary-General of the Triumph International Labour Union. Soonthorn Boonyord is a labour activist affiliated with the National Congress of Thai Labour. Each of them could face a maximum jail term of five years and/or each be fined up to 10,000 baht (USD 325).
    The trial of Ms Jittra Kotchadej, Ms Boonrod Paiwong, and Mr Soonthorn Boonyord will take place on 23, 24, 28, 29, and 30 August 2012.
    The prosecution witnesses will take the stand on 23 and 24 August, while the defence witnesses will do so on 28, 29, and 30 August. The venue of the trial will be Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road from 9am to 4.30pm.

  • Cambodia: Human rights worker sentenced to 2 years imprisonment on charges of incitement
    April 30, 2012

    On 30 August 2010, Leang Sokchouen, staff member of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), was convicted on charges of “disinformation” after a trial marked by numerous procedural flaws.
    The Appeals Court, in a decision that violates international fair trial standards, upheld his sentence but changed the charge to incitement. Sokchouen was not charged with incitement at his original trial and the charge was not raised during his Appeals Court hearing on 30 June 2011.
    Cambodian police arrested Sokchouen on 29 May 2010 on charges of involvement in the production and distribution of anti-government leaflets in Takeo province in January.
    He was held incommunicado for over 33 hours, despite numerous requests by his family and lawyer to visit him. Sokchouen was given a US$500 fine, plus a two-year prison sentence.
    On 25 May 2012, just five days before his release, Cambodia’s Supreme Court upheld the July 2011 verdict.
    On 30 May 2012, Mr. Sokchouen was released.

  • Cambodia: Opposition politician convicted for defamation
    April 30, 2012

    In July 2008, an incident occurred between Member of Parliament, Ms. Mu Sochua and a Cambodian army officer during a protest action against military land grabbing in Kampot Province, Cambodia where Ms. Mu Sochua’ blouse was accidentally torn.
    On 4 April 2009, Prime Minister Hun Sen, attacked Ms. Mu Sochua during a public speech. Although he did not mention her name, it was clear he targeting Ms. Mu Sochua. Hun Sen reportedly used harsh language, qualifying her as a women gangster or prostitute who had rushed to hug a man and unbuttoned her shirt to attract his attention. According to Ms Mu Sochua, the Prime Minister also referred to her as “cheung klang,” which means “strong legs” in Khmer and is considered an insult.
    On 10 June 2009, Ms. Mu Sochua sued Hun Sen for defamation, demanding a symbolic sum of 500 Cambodian Riels along with an apology. Instead of apologizing, the Prime Minister promptly countersued. Ms. Mu Sochua’s law suit was dismissed from court and Hun Sen’s application was admitted. Ms Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity was stripped away, a common practice used against opposition politicians.
    On 4 August 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Ms. Mu Sochua guilty of defamation under Article 63 of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC law) Criminal Provisions and sentenced her to a find of 8.5 million riel and 8 million riel in compensation to the Prime Minister. Her conviction was upheld by the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, despite the fact that no evidence proving either damage to reputation or malicious intent was presented during the case.

    Ms. Mu Sochua is an outspoken woman human rights defender and an elected national parliament member in Cambodia. She is considered the most prominent woman in Cambodia’s leading political opposition, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). She is a former Minister of Women’s Affairs, as well as one of 1000 women proposed for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

  • Mongolia: Journalist under investigation for criminal defamation after complaint of Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism
    September 29, 2011

    Globe International (GI) is deeply concerned over defamation charges brought against publicist and journalist A. Baatarkhuyag.

  • Bangladesh: Labour leaders threatened with fabricated charges
    September 26, 2011

    Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) leaders Kalpona Akhter and Babul Akhter and staff member Aminul Islam are facing a wide range of criminal charges including attempted murder, criminal intimidation, violence against civil servants, mischief causing damage, and violation of the Explosive Substances Act of 1908 in ten cases arising from violence related to labor unrest in June and July 2010. Some of the charges could lead to the death penalty.

  • Bangladesh: Muhammad Yunus charged with defamation
    September 26, 2011

    Micro-credit pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus appeared in a Bangladesh court on a defamation charge for reportedly criticizing politicians four years ago, court officials said.

  • Cambodia: Activist fears arrest after court bungle
    September 19, 2011

    An opposition Sam Rainsy Party activist from Prey Veng province says he fears arrest after accidentally missing a court appearance last week in connection with charges of defamation and disinformation.

  • China: 3 bloggers sentenced to 2 years in prison
    June 16, 2011

    Three bloggers – Fan Yanqiong, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying – who took up the case of a mother who was calling on the authorities to reopen the investigation into her daughter’s death, were convicted on charges of defamation and disturbing public order. The court imposed a two-year sentence on Fan and one-year sentences on You and Wu for posting information online supporting the mother’s claim that her daughter died after being gang-raped by individuals with links to the police rather than as a result of a miscarriage, as the authorities claim.