Groups Call For Justice in Beating of Activist

Leading human rights organizations Sunday strongly condemned the beating of a top Global Witness official, calling it a “cowardly act” and urged authorities to thoroughly investigate the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The alleged beating involves Global Witness country representative Eva Galabru, who was attacked by two or three unidentified men Tuesday night, and she received an unsigned e-mail message the next day saying she should “Quit.” Galabru was not seriously injured in the attack.

The assailants, who pushed Galabru to the ground and kicked and hit her several times near her office, did not try to rob her.

“The Cambodian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights deplores the attacks and threats against Eva Galabru,” stated UN Human Rights spokeswoman Francesca Marotta Sunday. “These are cowardly acts against a prominent member of Cambodia’s human rights community. We call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident.”

Kek Galabru, founder of the human rights group Licadho and mother to Eva, said Sunday that Eva filed a report on the incident with the Chamkar Mon district police. The beating of Eva Gala­bru—a former Licadho director—is just one of at least 20 incidents of violence and intimidation against human rights activists and workers in the last decade, including several against Licadho.

One report from an international human rights group which could not be identified stated that there have been at least 22 incidents of intimidation and violence against human rights workers and activists from 1993 to 1998.

Recently, UN staff at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees camp for Montagnard asylum seekers in Mondolkiri province reported that they were threatened and “manhandled” by officials from Vietnam in late March.

In one high profile case in 1998, human rights workers from Licadho and the human rights group Adhoc claimed they were harassed by military officials and soldiers in Snuol district, Kratie province. The workers were investigating the alleged killings of at least three accused members of the anti-government group Free Khmer by military officials in the district. The workers at the time said the soldiers prevented them from conducting a thorough investigation.

In another case involving Licadho, two Licadho workers were detained by the Sihanoukville court in December 1998 for one month after protests against the dumping of 3,000 tons of toxic waste got out of control.

The two Licadho officials were accused of leading the demonstration, but a statement by Human Rights Watch released around the time of the incident said the two officials were acting within their rights.

“Any threats against human rights activists shows that human rights in Cambodia do not exist and the people who commit them do not want human rights in Cambodia,” said Yi Kosalvathanak, a human rights official formerly with Adhoc.

Yi Kosalvathanak said that as recently as last year, he received at least three suspicious phone calls at 4:30 in the morning after he spoke out against the Khmer Rouge tribunal process to the press.

Some of the cases in Cambodia, however, are much more serious than ominous telephone calls, said one human rights official who asked not to be identified. The official said Sunday that some of the cases have included abductions, yet the cases sometimes go unreported out of fear or retribution.

“The effect of these cases are meant to stifle human rights work in Cambodia, but if [perpetrators of these incidents think it will stop this kind of work they are incorrect—it will probably have the opposite effect,” the official said.


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