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[Statement] Support for Cambodian human rights defenders

We express our solidarity and support for human rights defenders in Cambodia on this day, December 10, Human Rights Day. 

Human Rights Day is a reminder of the enduring human rights struggles occurring throughout the world; an acknowledgment of the pain and the courage of the numerous individuals and communities whose rights have been violated; and a tribute to the many persons who bear witness to such abuses and work to eradicate them. It is a day not only to reflect on the past and the present, but also to look forward ? a call to action to continue to strive for a just and peaceful world in which all human beings are truly born free and equal in dignity and rights.


We understand that this year's Human Rights Day is being celebrated in Cambodia, by a wide range of human rights defenders including grassroots community groups, under the theme "We Are All Human Rights Defenders". It is important to recognize that defending human rights is not the task of any one select group of people; it is the role and responsibility of all of people.


Regrettably, we have witnessed that the country's most prominent human rights activists, Yeng Virak, Kem Sokha and Pa Nguon Teang were arrested and charged with defamation of Prime Minister after last Human Rights Day. The arrests related with the displaying of a banner at the December 10 celebration which contained a critical comments for the governmental conduct. Subsequently, the International community's criticism toward these arrests led the release of the activists. However, even after the incidents, long list of human rights defenders, such as human rights NGO worker, union activists and community activists have been either detained by authority or threatened and assaulted in the year 2006. Such incidents seriously undermine progress of human rights in Cambodia.


As a Japan-based non-governmental organization founded by a collective of lawyers, academics and activists to work for the improvement of human rights standards world-wide, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, Human Rights Now urges Cambodian government to take all necessary measure to prevent the violence, arbitrary detention and harassments toward the human rights defenders, in particular, by investigating and prosecuting all perpetrators of alleged attacks. We also urge the government to end any suppression on Cambodian people's freedom of expression.


Finally, Human Rights Now calls upon international donor community to continue its commitment on human rights in Cambodia by monitoring and whistling of the human rights situation.


Human Rights Now calls for an End to Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines Human Rights Now expresses its serious concern for the spate of extrajudicial killings that continues unabated in The Philippines. According to human rights organizations in the Philippines, there have been 783 victims of extrajudicial killings since the start of President Arroyo's term of office in 2001. The occurrences of 184 forced disappearances, as well as many other cases of torture, physical assault, harassment and intimidation are also of grave concern.


As a Japan-based non-governmental organization founded by a collective of lawyers, academics and activists to work for the improvement of human rights situations world-wide, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, Human Rights Now calls on the Arroyo government to muster the necessary political will and work expeditiously to bringing an end to the killings. The fact that citizens ? including lawyers, religious leaders, journalists and human rights defenders ? who exercise their democratic right of political expression and association, are being targeted and killed, cannot be tolerated.


Reputable organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines have released documents and statements condemning the extrajudicial killings. Based on these national and international reports, we are greatly alarmed by the continued violence and appalled that the Arroyo government has allowed them to continue for so long. There is no place for such human rights violations, particularly in a country which prides itself on having established a modern democracy.


We seize the occasion of Human Rights Day ? 10 December 2006 ? to raise our voices and let the people of the Philippines know that such atrocities are not being ignored by the international community.


Human Rights Now expresses its grave concern that a culture of impunity is developing around these extrajudicial killings, as the government fails to properly investigate suspected perpetrators. To date, the number of convictions remains at zero. The lack of adequate protection for witnesses and victims' families must also be rapidly addressed so that testimonies can be duly made. This is a basic procedural safeguard that must be met in order for an effective process of justice to take root. The government must also work to restore public trust in the police to do their job with integrity.


While the establishment of serious government-initiated investigation is welcomed in theory, we emphasize the fundamental importance of a fully independent and impartial investigation carried out by credible and experienced individuals. To this end, we remain cautious about the capacity of the Melo Commission to carry out such a function.


We call for the charges of "rebellion" made against dozens of individuals, including the former President of the University of the Philippines, Professor Francisco Nemenzo, to be reassessed in light of their actual legal basis.


Finally, we note that it is regrettable that the national peace process has broken down. We urge the Arroyo government to commit itself to the prevention and prosecution of these extrajudicial killings. In doing this, it would regain the respect of the international community and also recreate an environment that is conducive to developing the peace and ushering in greater prosperity for the country.