Rights group Adhoc yesterday said it is considering taking legal action against Koh Kong police officials who took down banners calling for the release of the so-called Adhoc 5, though the group said it would prefer to find a solution with the police before exercising that option.
Last week, police in Koh Kong province’s Smach Meanchey district removed banners bearing the portraits of four current and one former Adhoc staffer, who have been in pretrial detention for more than a year. The next day, police in Sre Ambel district removed signs from three villagers’ homes.
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator for Adhoc, said the group will discuss with two other NGOs whose signs were removed – Licadho and Mother Nature – whether or not to file a legal complaint accusing the police officers of theft.
“We are trying to find a solution because we don’t trust the courts,” he said. “We will issue a joint statement to condemn the action of those police officials in Koh Kong.”
Smach Meanchey District Police Chief Min Reaksmey said the NGOs could issue statements or file a complaint but that the groups had not sought permission from local authorities before putting up the signs.
Meanwhile, the United States State Department on Friday expressed concern about the five’s detention and said it supports previous statements released by the European Union and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights criticising the government’s treatment of the jailed rights workers.
“The United States encourages the Government of Cambodia to consider carefully these recommendations and respect its relevant international human rights obligations,” the statement reads, referring to the findings by a UN working group last November calling the case “arbitrary”.