The Court of Appeal Should Grant Bail to Mam Sonando
Phnom Penh, 13 December 2012 — The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) urges the Court of Appeal to grant a bail request made by the lawyer of Mam Sonando at a hearing scheduled for Friday 14 December 2012. Mam Sonando – the owner of independent Beehive Radio and head of the Democrats Association – was arrested in July and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on 1 October 2012, on charges that were widely perceived to be politically motivated. ADHOC has been monitoring this case closely and welcomes the news that a bail hearing has been scheduled. Nevertheless, though Mam Sonando’s release on bail would be a positive move by the Appeal Court, his conviction should be overturned as soon as possible given the apparent political interference in his case. 2012 has seen judicial, and at times violent, attacks on activists and human rights workers, drawing criticism at home and abroad. The granting of bail for Mam Sonando, and, ultimately, a successful appeal against his conviction, would signal to the international community that Cambodia is back on course to becoming a country that respects and promotes human rights.
On 15 July 2012, Mam Sonando was arrested at his Phnom Penh home and immediately placed in pre-trial detention. He faced various charges related to a so-called “secession” plot in Kratie province’s Broma village, charges that were widely perceived as spurious by rights groups. Mam Sonando had voluntarily returned to Cambodia three days earlier, during an ASEAN summit. He was arrested after foreign delegates had left Phnom Penh.
The Democrats Association is registered with the Ministry of Interior. It aims to defend fundamental rights and freedoms, raise awareness and encourage citizens to use their legally protected rights. Beehive radio station, which broadcasts Radio Free Asia and Voice of America programs, voices the concerns of the poor, tackling social issues such as land grabbing by Cambodia’s elite. On 25 June 2012, Beehive broadcast a report on the receipt by the International Criminal Court of a lawsuit against the Cambodian government. The lawsuit alleged that widespread land grabbing and the systematic displacement of people this has caused, constitutes a crime against humanity. Following this report, Prime Minister Hun Sen publically called for the arrest of Mam Sonando in a speech in Phnom Penh, which was widely interpreted as a reaction against this broadcast.
On 1 October, Mam Sonando was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The verdict attracted international outrage and was condemned by national and international rights groups, as well as by the Foreign Ministries of France, the US and others.
In his visit to Cambodia in November 2012, United States President Barack Obama discussed Mam Sonando’s case with Prime Minister Hun Sen. President Obama indicated that Cambodia’s deteriorating human rights situation was an “impediment” to the development of a deeper bilateral relationship between the two countries. The release of Mam Sonando on bail, and a successful appeal against his sentence, would go some way to answering these concerns and address the perceived politicization of Cambodia’s judiciary. A free and independent judiciary is a cornerstone of democracy and if Cambodia is earnest in its commitment to democracy and human rights, political interference into the courts must cease.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Monitoring Section: 011 274 959
Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant: 092 648 318; firstname.lastname@example.org