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Friday, February 03, 2012

Cambodia: Stop the use of excessive force against peaceful land activists

(NewDesignWorld Press Center) - Cambodian authorities must stop the use of excessive force against peaceful land and housing activists, Amnesty International said today, after police violently dispersed a group of around 150 women protesting forced evictions in the capital Phnom Penh.

Police yesterday beat and arrested several of the women, who were peacefully protesting against last month’s forced eviction of the Borei Keila community and the situation at the capital’s Boeung Kak Lake.

“Communities all over Cambodia are peacefully resisting forced evictions and taking action to claim their rights,” said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme.

“The Cambodian authorities must stop the use of excessive force against these communities, and bring to justice those responsible for such violence.”

Yesterday’s episode follows more serious incidents elsewhere in the country, where land activists were reportedly shot and injured in Kratie province in eastern Cambodian by military personnel working for a private company, and in Battambang province in the west by military police.

Several of the women protesting in Phnom Penh yesterday were half naked, as they removed their clothing in an apparent show of desperation. Police reportedly grabbed and beat the protesters, including elderly women, to the ground, before six women were thrown into a police van and detained overnight at Phnom Penh police station.

The six women included Borei Keila residents Seng Kunthea, Seng Rany, Tom Sakmony, Nen Sarith and Ath Samnang, as well as Srang Srey Tuch, a former resident of Boeung Kak Lake.

At least two of them were injured during the arrest but reportedly received no medical care, while none of them were given full access to lawyers.

Four of the detained Borei Keila women had previously been held at Prey Speu Social Affairs Center, after a peaceful protest last month against the Borei Keila forced eviction.

All six were released today without charge after being detained overnight. Phnom Penh authorities agreed to discuss the disputes with representatives from the two communities.

Women from Borei Keila are seeking compensation for damaged property and calling on the authorities to address their housing needs after more than 300 families were evicted from a development site on 3 January. The developer, Phan Imex, has failed to build the on-site housing it previously promised them.

Seven people arrested during the Borei Keila eviction remain in detention.

Residents from Boeung Kak Lake are calling for the authorities to follow through on the Prime Minister’s promise, made in August 2011, to grant land titles to remaining residents and allow construction of on-site housing around the lake.

They are also demanding that the authorities take measures to alleviate flooding caused by the company filling in the lake. Former residents are calling for additional compensation for being forced to leave their homes and relocating elsewhere.

Earlier this week, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned against the use of violence in land disputes.

“The Cambodian government is saying one thing and authorities at the local level are doing another. Yesterday’s use of excessive force by police in Phnom Penh contradicts the Prime Minister’s call for peaceful resolutions to land disputes,” said Donna Guest.

“Instead of trying to silence these communities through intimidation and violence, the Phnom Penh authorities should listen to them. These communities have a right to a prompt solution that meets Cambodia’s international legal obligations to provide adequate housing,” said Donna Guest.
Region Asia And The Pacific
Country Cambodia
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Cambodia: Khmer Rouge judgment welcome, but raises human rights concerns

The UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal’s final judgment against a former prison chief in Cambodia today is an important step towards accountability but raises human rights concerns, Amnesty International said.

The tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber upheld an earlier conviction of Khmer Rouge jailer Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, for crimes against humanity and war crimes described as “amongst the worst in human history”, and increased his sentence from 35 years to life in prison.

Duch was held responsible for killing at least 12,272 men, women, and children from 1975 to 1979 while he was in charge of “S21”, a secret prison run by the Khmer Rouge in a former school in Phnom Penh.

The judgment included additional convictions against Duch, but also raised human rights concerns by overturning a legal remedy he was granted after a Cambodian military court illegally detained him, without investigation or trial, from May 1999 until July 2007.

“The closure of this first case represents an important step towards achieving accountability for the mass crimes of the Khmer Rouge, and helping the Cambodian people draw a line under this tragic chapter of their country’s history,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s researcher on Cambodia, who attended today’s judgment.

“But the decision to overturn the legal remedy for Duch’s unlawful detention and to provide no alternative may be perceived as a case of public opinion trumping human rights.”

Amnesty International considers that the July 2010 decision of the tribunal’s Trial Chamber to grant this legal remedy – a five-year reduction in Duch’s sentence as a result of the illegal detention – sent a positive message to the Cambodian justice system that human rights should be universally enjoyed and that violations must be remedied.

Another concern with the judgment is the apparent decision to leave the issue of Duch’s eligibility for parole to the Cambodian justice system, which has been criticized for its lack of independence.

Additionally, confusing findings relating to the Tribunal’s personal jurisdiction over former Khmer Rouge may have implications for other cases.

The Supreme Court Chamber’s judgment highlighted the suffering of Duch’s victims, their families and the Cambodian people, admitting several additional Civil Parties – victims who join as parties in the proceedings – whose applications had been rejected in the original verdict.

Amnesty International called on the Cambodian government to provide support for ‘moral and collective’ reparations for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Today’s judgment emphasized the important role of victims in proceedings before the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. We had hoped, however, for a more creative decision on ‘moral and collective’ reparations and urge the Cambodian government to work with victims’ groups to meet their needs in this regard,” said Rupert Abbott.

The Supreme Court Chamber issued only a summary appeal judgment today, with a full decision to be issued in due course. The judgment is final and cannot be appealed.
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Land mine left over from Cambodian conflict kills 8 farmers on tractor

By Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Eight farmers have died after their tractor ran over an anti-tank mine left over from Cambodia’s 1980s civil war.

The head of the Cambodian Mines Action Center, Heng Ratana, says two others were seriously injured Friday when the mine exploded as the farmers traveled to a cassava field in Banteay Meanchey province, 190 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of Phnom Penh.

He says the area was the site of intense battles between the communist Khmer Rouge and government forces in the 1980s and early 1990s. Deminers face the task of removing an estimated 4 to 6 million land mines and other ordnance still left from more than three decades of conflict.

Heng Ratana says about 200 Cambodians were killed or wounded by mines last year.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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