Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) welcomes the release of women’s human rights defender Mu Sochua and the other Cambodian Opposition Parliament-elects from unlawful detention, and endorses calls for an end to harassment and a return to freedom of association and expression in Cambodia.
After violent clashes on July 15 in which dozens of people were hurt during a rally calling for the re-opening of Freedom Park, Mu Sochua, was arrested along with several Cambodian lawmaker-elects and one youth activist from the Cambodia National Rescue Party. They were detained in prison on charges of serious crimes, including insurrection. The arrests are the latest twist in a year-long political deadlock over a disputed election and over the rights of Cambodian civil society and most marginalised to associate and express demands.
It is evident that the harassment of Mu Sochua and the opposition lawmakers attempting to engage in their democratic right to protest violates the right to freedom of expression and assembly; and the prohibitions against torture and arbitrary detention.
On July 22, one week after their arrests, Sochua and other prisoners were released on bail. Afterwards, Sochua stated via her blog that despite her imprisonment she would continue to call for peaceful protest and condemn violence. Mu Sochua has been a powerful figure, campaigning for democratic governance, respect for human rights, and the restoration of freedoms and liberties for the Cambodian people.
We call on:
- The United Nations and the international community to continue monitoring the actions of the Cambodian government and military and assert the importance of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly for all in Cambodia;
- Donor governments to call on the Cambodian Government to adhere to international human rights standards and seek clarification on the outstanding charges against Mu Sochua and other representatives;
- The Government of Cambodia to cease using ‘law fare’ (manufactured charges that criminalize lawful behavior) against peaceful protestors and opposition members;
- The Government of Cambodia to immediately cease using violence against peaceful protesters and protect their rights, including freedom of expression and assembly and the right to live free from violence.
- The Government of Cambodia to appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate cases of violence, disappearances and murders committed by military personnel and end impunity;
APWLD is a leading network of over 180 women’s rights organisations and activists representing groups of diverse women from 26 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
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