One of my favorite blogs and an excellent one to consider subscribing to if you are interested in the field of International Law, IntLawGrrls, covered the passing of former Fletcher School professor, Ellen Lutz, today.

I have never met Ellen Lutz but I found her life’s work and the sense of her character that came through in this article to be very inspiring. As a Fletcher student interested in human rights law, a follower of Cultural Survival‘s work and campaigns, and as someone who hopes to find a life of balance while working in this field I feel so passionate about, her story is one I will hold close as a role model.

Ellen Lutz, photo credit: Intlawgrrls

In passing: Ellen L. Lutz

Ellen L. Lutz, an international human rights lawyer, teacher, and activist, died this past Thursday, November 4, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cause was metastatic breast cancer. She was 55.

During her final two years battling the disease, Ellen directed the Cambridge-based human rights organization Cultural Survival, co-edited two pioneering books (Prosecuting Heads of State, (Cambridge U. Press) and Human Rights and Conflict Management in Context (Syracuse U. Press), submitted formal reviews on state behavior to the UN Human Rights Council, led international litigation on behalf of Panama’s threatened Nobe Indians, and sang alto with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. She did each with equal enthusiasm and skill.

Her concern for human rights began when, as a 15-year-old exchange student to Uruguay, she witnessed the onset of Uruguay’s state sponsored “Dirty War,” and supported the international human rights movements such actions spawned across Latin American during the 1970s. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple University (1976) and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr (1978), Ellen took a Law Degree in International Law and Human Rights from Boalt Hall Law School (University of California at Berkeley) in 1985.

Ellen’s persistent interest in Latin America continued as professional work with Amnesty International (1979-81), in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco.

She later headed the California office of Human Rights Watch (1989-94), where she conducted research and published on little-known but extensive human rights abuses in Mexico, and she was co-counsel in two groundbreaking human rights cases in U.S. courts, against the infamous Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Argentine General Suarez-Mason.

Moving with her family to Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1994, she helped to set up and then served as Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, taught international law. human rights, and mediation at Tufts, Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, and wrote widely. One of her students, now a professor at Occidental College, recalled how
warm and desirous she was of connecting to students amid the formal Fletcher iciness, a marvelous force of nature.

Ellen was asked to become Executive Director of Cultural Survival in 2004, where she increased the participation of indigenous people on the Board of Directors and Program Council, while steering the organization away from local development projects to broad human rights initiatives. Ellen said:

Development work like building schools, digging wells, and providing services is what governments should be doing. Our work is to make sure governments live up to their obligations.

One of her colleagues wrote,

It would be difficult to quantify Ellen’s ferocious passion for justice. Her zeal and natural warm-heartedness combined with a legal rigor that made her a truly formidable advocate.
There was much of such personal and professional praise. But, perhaps the most encompassing and, for Ellen, meaningful compliment came from Stella Tamang, a Nepalese tribal leader and friend:

To Ellen, my Kalyana Mitra,
In Buddhism Kalyana means Wellbeing and Mitra means friend. Kalyana Mitra therefore means friends who always think about their wellbeing. You have been such wonderful friend, a constant support during the problems I was facing about the political problem back in Nepal. We also talked about family, our children, and life. I am blessed to have a friend like you. We believe that if a person has done good Karma, he or she gets to meet with wonderful people, and you are the one for me…

And Ellen was not a Buddhist. Ellen is survived by her husband, Theodore Macdonald, an anthropologist previously with Cultural Survival and now with Harvard University, and her two children from a previous marriage, David and Julia Randall, now studying at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard, respectively. Her cat, Misty, and dog, Churi, are well taken care of. Her friends, among them many women human rights lawyers, are grateful to her for her wise counsel and unflagging dignity. All are thankful to their Kalyana Mitra.

By: Naomi Roht-Arriaza of Intlawgrrls

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First off… Happy Birthday to my wonderful Papa Dan! Biggest news of the day in my sphere is my dad turning an impressive 65 today! Wisdom speaks louder than words and his will continue always to echo in my ears.

As many of you have seen, the international news from the Cambodia front has been the announcement of (alias) Duch’s judgement at the EC on Monday. I’ve included a few items and hope to post something myself later this week. Until then, here are some news stories from this past week!

Photo by: Pha Lina

Exam monitors ‘take money’

By: Khouth Sophakchakrya, July 28, 2010

THE head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association yesterday accused officials in Kandal province of ordering teachers administering Grade 12 national exams to take money from students, part of what he described as worsening corruption surrounding the three-day tests.

Convicted Khmer Rouge prison chief to appeal: lawyer

By Suy Se in AFP, July 27, 2010

Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will appeal against his conviction by Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes tribunal, which sentenced him to 30 years in jail, his defence lawyer said Tuesday. Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the court on Monday in a ruling that has been hailed as a “historic milestone” in tackling impunity in the country.

Cambodian women rally behind condemned opposition MP Mu Sochua

By: Observers, July 27, 2010

Mu Sochua, a female MP of Cambodia’s opposition Sam Rainsy Party, faces jail for refusing to pay 4,000 dollars in fines and compensation on a conviction last year for allegedly defaming prime minister Hun Sen. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the proceedings against her an example of the “alarming erosion” of Cambodia’s free speech and judicial independence.

Photo by: Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian garment workers clash with police

By Prak Chan Thul, Reuters, July 27, 2010

At least nine female garment workers were injured on Tuesday in clashes with Cambodian riot police who used shields and electric shock batons to try to end a week-long strike over the suspension of a local union official.

Press Release: Kaing Guek Eav Convicted of Crimes Against Humanity and Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949

By: ECCC, July 26, 2010

The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) today found KAING Guek Eav alias Duch guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and sentenced him to 35 (thirty-five) years of imprisonment.

Duch gets 35 (- 5) years

By: IntLawGrrls, July 26, 2010

So says the presiding judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, in Khmer, in this 10-minute video clip of today’s verdict against Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch), about whose trial we’ve blogged here. The 67-year-old Duch, stoic during the reading of the verdict, was convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, and torture, and sentenced to “35 years in prison — with five years taken off that sentence for time served.”

Cambodia: The Official Launch of the First Online Human Rights Portal

By: Sopheap Chak in Global Voices Online, July 26, 2010

Sithi.org, a Cambodian human rights portal that aims to crowdsource and curate reports of human rights violations, officially launched on July 22, 2010 with participation from various institutions including embassies, international and local NGOs, media and university representatives. Over the past year, the site has developed rapidly. A number of reports of human rights violations, relevant legal instruments and publications have been made available on the site.

Irish photographer recalls day he found KRouge torturer

By: AFP, July 24, 2010

In March 1999 an old man wandered up to an Irish photographer on his day off in a village in Cambodia. It was Duch, the torture chief of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime who many assumed was long dead.

Cambodian Ruling Party’s Plenum Reaffirms Hun Sen for PM Post in Next Terms

By: CRI English, July 22, 2010

The Cambodia’s ruling party — the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on Thursday reaffirmed at it plenum Hun Sen’s candidate for prime minister post for the next terms. “The plenum reaffirms its endorsement of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen’s candidacy for the post of prime minister for the next terms,” announced the party’s communique released at the ending of the 35th Plenum of the Fifth-Term Central Committee of the CPP.

The Old Municipal Building

I first heard about Mu Sochua[i] when my mother forwarded me “Crusader Rowing Upstream in Cambodia”[ii] a New York Times article profiling her campaigns for women’s rights, land rights, and reelection to parliament which have led to political and legal entanglements with the current Prime Minister.  Now hardly a week goes by where Mu Sochua’s name does not appear in the newspaper.

The court battles began back in April, 2009 when Mu Sochua alleges the Prime Minister referred to her as “cheung klang,” a Khmer term which translates to “strong legs” in English. The term is typically used in reference to men and is understood to mean “gangster” making it especially insulting towards a woman. Mu Sochua contended the statement affected her “honor and dignity”[iii] and set forth to “claim justice for all Khmer women,” by suing the Prime Minister for defamation. The case was never heard before the courts, dismissed for lack of evidence.

Following the dismissal, both Mu Sochua and her lawyer Kong Sam Onn were accused by Prime Minister Hun Sen of defamation for having brought forth the defamation case against him in the first place. News reports indicate Kong Sam Onn was threatened with disbarment and subsequently dropped Mu Sochua’s case, apologized publically to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and formally joined the ruling Communist People’s Party (CPP).[iv]

Mu Sochua’s case is an interesting look into the intersection of politics and law and may be indicative of the reality in Cambodia today. I had the unique opportunity to observe Mu Sochua’s appeals trial at the Supreme Court on June 2nd, 2010. The following is an account of my experience in court that day. Much of the information is based on the translated summaries and subsequent discussions I had with a first-year student at the University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh who also attended the trial.

*             *             *             *             *

Early morning crowds observe across the street

I arrived at the Old Municipal Building early on June 2nd, 2010. As I got off the moto, dripping in sweat from the hot morning sun, I found the street filled with small clusters of military and police authorities chatting and observing the crowd.  Having had arrived to Cambodia just one week earlier, I felt a bit intimidated by the police presence and unsure of the procedure for attending court. After scanning the crowd for others I might know, I slipped behind a reporter, handed my ID to the guard, and allowed my bag to be searched. Without any questions I managed to squeeze through a set of double wooden doors as they were closing behind the overfilled courtroom.

Shortly after finding a spot on the floor the first trial began.  Court proceedings are held in Khmer and for some moments I listened, uncomprehending, while NGO and media attendees leaned into their Cambodian colleagues for translation. I noticed a young man in front of me reading a copy of The Cambodian Daily[v], tapped him on his shoulder and whispered, “What is he saying?” referring to the judge at the front of the room. He explained the first case was a land dispute involving a rural landowner and the state.

Less than an hour passed before the first trial concluded and Mu Sochua was called before the court. It is important to note that Ms. Sochua was not accompanied by legal representation. According to her testimony, Mu Sochua sought representation but was not able to find a lawyer due to the troubles faced by her previous counsel. According to the Cambodian Civil Procedures, under Appeals before the Supreme Court [§5.40] it is stated that “All parties may be represented by their lawyers.”[vi] However, lawyers are only required for appearances by the accused in felony cases. The question of representation was never resolved during the trial. The prosecution asserted that Ms. Sochua should not be granted a court-appointed lawyer because she could afford one of her own. When Ms. Sochua contested that, due to the treatment of her previous lawyer, no other lawyer was willing to represent her, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lawyer argued that she could not be sure of that because did not ask every lawyer in Cambodia. And so, after a formal reading by the Court Clerk, representing her own defense, a formal statement was prepared and delivered before the court by Mu Sochua herself.

During her statement, Mu Sochua  spoke about the importance of justice for women in Cambodia. She emphasized that her case was not about herself alone, but rather symbolized the value of all Cambodian women, and of women worldwide.  During her testimony Ms. Sochua also referenced the law: the Cambodian constitution and international standards of freedom of speech, human rights, and the rights of the child, all of which are incorporated under Cambodian law.  She also referred to Cambodian procedural law, under which the accused have the right to representation, drawing attention to the fact that the courts did not appoint her a public defender, despite her wish to be represented by a lawyer.

Following Ms. Sochua’s statement, the Prime Minister’s lawyer presented arguments on behalf of the Prime Minister, who was not present for the trial.  His main argument was that by suing the Prime Minister for only 500 Riel (roughly USD 13 cents) Mu Sochua’s defamation case was not made in good faith but rather with the bad intentions of creating a spectacle and thereby defaming the Prime Minister. Secondly, if Mu Sochua indeed represented all Cambodian women, then all Cambodian women must agree with her and find the actions of the Prime Minister objectionable. Third, he claimed that Mu Sochua further defamed the Prime Minister by reaching out to international women’s organizations to support her case. Forth, in defense of Prime Minster Hun Sen’s absence at court, his lawyer proclaimed that if the court wanted the PM present they should have gone to the Ministry Council and request his presence several days in advance (in order to allow for security to secure the premises). This was followed by audible laughter from the audience who view the argument as a weak explanation for the Prime Minister’s absence and believe the Supreme Court premises could have been secured had the PM decided to attend the trial.

There was no cross examination and little to no questioning of either side by the 5-judge panel of the court.  The court recessed for about 30-40 minutes before returning with a verdict to uphold the original decision by the Municipal Court in finding Mu Sochua guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordering her to pay an approximately 8 million Riel fine. The Supreme Court is the highest court in Cambodia and is considered the court of last resort and therefore their judgment is the final binding decision unless under a special procedure they are asked to consider a revision of a case decision.

Mu Sochua Speaking to the Press

Outside the courtroom Mu Sochua’s energy was high as she stood surrounded by media and supporters holding single candles, a symbol of the Sam Raimsey political party. Police officials stood off to the side as she delivered a defeated yet defiant speech, first in Khmer, and then again in English for the international NGO and media presence. She discussed the failures of the Cambodian judicial system and lack of freedom of speech within the nation. She said her verdict was evidence that the Cambodian judicial system is not independent of the political ruling party, evidence that the system is not “just” but “justice is for sale”.  She was adamant in her commitment to not pay the court-ordered fine, stating that she “could not, in her conscious, pay such a fine”. She encouraged Cambodians to not live their lives in fear but to stand up to injustices.

Following the press statements Mu Sochua led an impromptu march of supporters from the Old Municipal Building along Sihanouk Blvd. in front of the Royal Palace and past the Ministry of Justice and towards the Sam Raimsey offices.  After a few minutes of walking, a pick-up truck barreled through and police armed in riot gear jumped out and swarmed the crowd of supporters preventing them from walking further. Mu Sochua confronted them directly and with media in tow snapping photos cried, “what is illegal about walking through the city?” After about five minutes of this face-off, the police retreated to their pick-up trucks and drove off allowing the small group of supporters to continue along their way.

Police Preventing Passage

Although the June 2nd incident ended peacefully, there is considerable debate about what will happen next and the drama continues to be played out in the national media with newspapers speculating on the final outcome. Some contend the courts will take action to seize her assets or issue an arrest in order to collect the already overdue 16.5 million Riel fine. Others claim such actions would provoke protest and amplify her cause.

As a student of the Cambodian legal system with a background working in the field of nonviolent conflict I continue to follow the story with great interest. Is Mu Sochua picking a fight with the Prime Minister or is she waging a nonviolent campaign for people’s rights in Cambodia? What precedent might this case set for future cases of defamation and freedom of speech in Cambodia and what can we conclude about political interference in the court system from this case?

As the story continues to unfold, Mu Sochua is ever-persistent in her claims that she will not pay the fine. Upon return from the United States last week she announced yet again, “if they want, they can arrest me any time, my address is already known.”[vii]

Negotiating with the Police


[i] To learn more about Mu Sochua you can visit her website: http://musochua.org/ or facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2881835&id=7906996&ref=mf#!/sochua

[ii] Mydans, Seth “Crusader Rowing Upstream,” New York Times, February 21, 2010 (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/world/asia/22cambowomen.html?_r=1)

[iii] Duong Sokha, “Opposition MP Mu Sochua files lawsuit against Hun Sen on grounds of defamation,” Ka-set, April 23, 2009 (http://cambodia.ka-set.info/hot-news/news-mu-sochua-hun-sen-defamation-srp-090423news-mu-sochua-hun-sen-defamation-srp-090423.html)

[iv] “Media, opposition party under fire from Cambodia’s strongman” Southeast Asian Press Alliance, January 23, 2010 (http://www.seapabkk.org/newdesign/newsdetail.php?No=1205)

[v] This daily English newspaper does not currently have an active online presence, but information can be found here: http://www.camnet.com.kh/cambodia.daily/

[vi] International Human Rights Law Group Cambodia Defenders Project, Chapter Five: Appeals, (http://www.globalrights.org/site/DocServer/Cambodia_Ch5.pdf?docID=191) June 9, 2010.

[vii] Meas Sokhea, “Sochua defiant on return”, Phnom Penh Post, July 7, 2010 (http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010070640294/National-news/sochua-defiant-on-return.html)

Cambodian Sex Workers Protest (© 2008 AP Photo)

Cambodia: Sex Workers Face Unlawful Arrests and Detention

Officials Should Investigate and Close Government Centers Where Abuses Occur

By: Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2010

For far too long, police and other authorities have unlawfully locked up sex workers, beaten and sexually abused them, and looted their money and other possessions. The Cambodian government should order a prompt and thorough independent investigation into these systematic violations of sex workers’ human rights and shut down the centers where these people have been abused.

Inflation ‘manageable’ in first half of 2010

By: May Kunmakara in Phnom Penh Post, July 20, 2010

INFLATION, recorded at 5.22 percent in the first half of the year, has grown at a “stable” and “manageable” rate according to commentators. According to National Institute of Statistics consumer price index released yesterday, the first six months of 2010 saw inflation reach 5.22 percent compared to the same period last year. Quarter-on-quarter inflation was slight at 0.3 percent.

US envoy defends military relations with Cambodia

By: AFP, June 19, 2010

A senior US diplomat on Sunday defended relations with allegedly abusive Cambodian military units as he concluded a two-day visit to the capital Phnom Penh. William Burns, US Under-Secretary of State for political affairs, said military aid from the United States to Cambodia was intended to boost a civil-military relationship that was essential to a “healthy political system”.

Sochua at ‘war’ with courts

By: Meas Sokchea in Phonm Penh Post, July 16, 2010

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua reaffirmed yesterday that she would refuse to pay fines levied after she was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, again daring the government to imprison her for failing to meet a court-ordered payment deadline.

Human rights head ‘seriously concerned’ at pursuit of opposition MP

By: Earth Times, July 16, 2010

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed “serious concern” Tuesday at the Cambodian government’s pursuit of a criminal case against opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua.

Hundreds of families block land-clearing

By: May Tithara in Phnom Penh Post, July 16, 2010

AROUND 256 families from Kampong Speu province’s Trapaing Chor commune held a sit-down protest in Phlout Leu village yesterday to prevent a sugar firm from clearing their farmland, villagers said. Villager Lot Sovan, who claims to have occupied the land since 2000, said the company began clearing the land at 3:30pm Wednesday. Villagers asked the company to stop, insisting that the dispute over the concession had not been resolved. The villagers then prevented further clearing by protesting yesterday, he said.

Cambodia women see future in sports and big muscles

By: Kounila Keo, Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 2010

Cambodia women are rising fast in the wide world of sports. Pétanque player Duch Sophorn has alone won gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competitions over the past decade.

Photo of Tonle Bassac Commune by Jake SchonEker

Group 78 anniversary rally planned

By: Jake Schoneker and Tang Khyhay in Phnom Peh Post, July 15, 2010

AYEAR ago this week, police and red-shirted demolition workers arrived at dawn on a Friday morning to clear out a tract of land in Tonle Bassac commune known as Group 78. Once a close-knit community of street vendors and civil servants that contained 146 families, the land is now empty, a fenced-in plot of grass and sand. On Saturday, former Group 78 residents plan to reunite and demonstrate at their old home, a year to the day after the last families were forced to abandon the site and scatter to the outskirts of the city.

100,000 Cambodian officials to be required to declare assets as part of anti-corruption fight

By: Canadian Business, July 14, 2010

Some 100,000 government officials in Cambodia will be required to declare their assets this year in an effort to combat corruption, a senior official said Wednesday. Under an anti-corruption law passed in March, any official found guilty of taking bribes could face up to 15 years in prison. Cambodia, a poor country heavily dependent on foreign aid, is routinely listed by independent groups such as Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in Asia.

Kampong Speu Provincial Courtroom

Third arrest in Kampong Speu sugar conflict

By: May Titthara and Will Baxter in Phnom Penh Post, June 24, 2010

A FARMER was arrested and briefly detained by military police in Kampong Speu province on Wednesday after trying in vain to stop employees of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company from clearing his land, marking the third arrest in a controversial land fight. Rights workers condemned the action as an example of Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who owns the company, leveraging the military against villagers to further his business interests.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010062440062/National-news/third-arrest-in-kampong-speu-sugar-conflict.html

Image By: Jared Ferrie

As Champagne is to France, Kampot pepper is to Cambodia

By: Jared Ferrie in Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 2010

The Cambodian government recently approved ‘geographical indication’ status for Kampot ground pepper, which Parisian chefs have called the best in the world.

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/0623/As-Champagne-is-to-France-Kampot-pepper-is-to-Cambodia

Image by: Mak Remissa

Next Time You’re in … Siem Reap

By: Adam Rose in TIME, June 23, 2010

In antiquity, the secrets of silk- farming were so jealously guarded by the Chinese that the Romans, who only ever saw the finished product, believed silk threads grew on trees. But today, if you want to know how a $70 scarf is spun out of the saliva of the Bombyx mori, or silkworm, all you need do is visit the Angkor Silk Farm, on the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

http://www.time.com/time/travel/article/0,31542,1998973,00.html

Khmer Rouge history slogans to be in schools

By: Mom Kunthear in Phnom Penh Post, June 22, 2010

The Education Ministry has approved two slogans concerning the importance of Khmer Rouge history lessons that are set to be displayed in high schools nationwide, officials said Monday. According to an unofficial translation, the slogans, which were suggested by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) and amended by the Education Ministry, read: “To study life in the Khmer Rouge period is to learn about reconciling and educating children to be tolerant and forgive each other,” and,“To learn about the history of Democratic Kampuchea means to learn to prevent other genocidal regimes from happening”.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010062240002/National-news/kr-education-kr-history-slogans-to-be-in-schools.html

UN Official Accuses Cambodia of Human Rights Breaches

By: Radio Australia, June 18, 2010

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cambodia says he has serious concerns about Cambodia’s human rights record. Surya Prasad Subedi has just ended a ten day mission to Cambodia, focussing mainly on the judiciary, and says he’s uncovered serious shortcomings. He says it’s a judicial system that’s critically underfunded and fails to appropriately train people in the basics of human rights law.

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia/stories/201006/s2930634.htm

UN envoy warns of failing judiciary in Cambodia

By: Press Trust of India, June 19, 2010

The UN special envoy on human rights in Cambodia has said that the country’s judiciary is facing tremendous challenges. “The judiciary in Cambodia is facing tremendous challenges in delivering justice for the people of the country, especially the poor and marginalized,” Professor Surya Subedi, the UN special rapporteur said on Thursday. While considering the overall state of the judicial system in Cambodia, he raised specific concerns relating to the judiciary’s role in protecting freedom of expression and in cases involving land-related rights.

http://www.ptinews.com/news/727480_UN-envoy-warns-of-failing-judiciary-in-Cambodia