Human Rights Organization Renews its Call on Authorities to Overturn 'Baseless' Convictions
(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International said today the decision by Cambodia's Appeal Court to release 13 women imprisoned for peacefully protesting is a victory for their community, but called for their convictions to now be overturned.
On May 24, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the 13 human rights defenders to two and a half years in prison after an unfair trial. Their arrest followed a peaceful demonstration against the destruction of homes and the forced eviction of thousands of families living around Boeung Kak Lake, in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.
"We are delighted that the 13 women will be released and reunited with their families and community," said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher. "They should not have been arrested in the first place, and their imprisonment has caused unnecessary distress to both them and their families."
"We consider the women's release to be a victory won by the Boeung Kak Lake community," added Abbott. "They have not been cowed and have continued to demonstrate peacefully for the women's release, setting an inspirational example for other human rights defenders in Cambodia."
On Tuesday, the human rights organization called on the Cambodian authorities to overturn the convictions of the women, identifying them as "prisoners of conscience."
"Cambodia’s Appeal Court should have overturned the women's convictions, not merely suspend the remainder of their sentences," said Abbott. "The charges against the women were baseless, and their original trial was grossly unfair."
The charges against Ly Chanary and Sao Sarouen, the two Boeung Kak Lake activists released on bail earlier this month, must also be dropped.
"And there should be an investigation into reports of police violence against Boeung Kak Lake community members outside the Appeal Court today," concluded Abbott.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.