Cambodia Must Release Garment Worker Detainees

Cambodia's prime minister must release garment workers who were detained during demonstrations and ensure the right to peaceful assembly, association and expression, urges Freedom House and key human rights groups in the following letter:


February 10, 2014

His Excellency Prime Minister Hun Sen
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia
Cabinet of the Prime Minister, Council of Ministers
Phnom Penh
Kingdom of Cambodia
E-mail: [email protected]

Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen:

We the undersigned are deeply concerned by the continued detention of 21 of 23 people arrested during and after a violent crackdown by state security forces against striking garment workers and other protesters in Phnom Penh on January 2 and 3, 2014. We are also extremely concerned that Cambodian authorities have yet to lift the general ban imposed against public gatherings in violation of the rights to peaceful assembly, expression, and association under international human rights law and the Constitution of Cambodia.

We urge you to take the following measures to comply with the government’s human rights obligations:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release all detainees arrested in connection with recent demonstrations and civil unrest who are being held solely on account of their exercise of basic human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally drop all cases against persons who are being investigated in connection with the protests solely on account of their exercise of basic human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association;
  3. Immediately investigate and take appropriate legal action against companies that have fired or otherwise punished workers and union members in retaliation for their exercise of basic human rights, including rights related to union activities;
  4. Grant temporary release, in accordance with international law, to any remaining detainees held in connection with the January protests, and ensure lawyers have free and full access to the case files of their clients who have been charged with a criminal offense;
  5. Ensure that anyone charged in connection with the January protests receives a prompt, fair and public trial before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, free from government interference in the trial process;
  6. Immediately lift the ban on all public gatherings, and ensure the rights to peaceful assembly, association and expression;
  7. Promptly revise all laws, decrees, sub-decrees and decisions containing provisions that restrict the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, including rights related to union activities, to bring them into accordance with international human rights law and best practices; and
  8. Ensure that anyone responsible for excessive use of force during the protests, especially those responsible for causing death or injury through such use of force, including those with liability arising from command authority, is appropriately disciplined or criminally prosecuted.

We appreciate your attention to these matters of grave and ongoing concern.

Sincerely yours,
Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Scott Nova, Executive Director, Worker Rights Consortium (WRC)
Lynda Yanz, Executive Director, Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN)
Anne Dekker, Urgent Appeals Coordinator , Clean Clothes Campaign International Secretariat (CCC)
Fahmi Panimberg, Programme Coordinator, Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC)
Judy Gearhart, Executive Director, International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
Estela Ramirez, Global Chair, Union League for Brand Responsibility
Karim Lahidji, President, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Isabelle Arradon, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director, Amnesty International - International Secretariat
Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia Director, Civil Rights Defenders
Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Ph. D., Director, Southeast Asia, Freedom House
Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Executive Director, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)