Press Release / Jan. 27, 2001

Global Witness investigators could face two-year prison sentence

On the 26th January 2001 two Global Witness investigators appeared before Mr Kry Sok Y, Deputy Prosecutor of Kandal Provincial Court, to answer questions relating to a complaint filed by the logging company Everbright on January 15th. The Global Witness investigators were told that "mistakes made" during their January 12th inspection of the Everbright plywood factory could lead them to being charged under article 57 of the UNTAC law and facing a maximum two years in prison.

"We have consulted UN lawyers and they say that the UNTAC law concerns potential abuses by government officials in particular the police and the military. The law simply does not apply in this case." said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness.

"The whole thrust of this law is to protect the rights of the individual, and in the case of article 57 to protect the 'inviobility of the home' not to prevent routine inspections of factories and sawmills." said Buckrell.

However the Deputy Prosecutor has reserved the right to 'interpret' the law and Global Witness is concerned that this could lead to a prosecution.

In the complaint Everbright alleges that Global Witness investigators trespassed in the factory, failed to get the company's approval for the inspection, disrupted 'normal production' and violated 'our company's benefits'. The company is seeking an open apology in the media and compensation for the lost production.

''Everbright is using the law to perpetuate the impunity that the concessionaires have enjoyed for years. This continued impunity has to be central to any discussion of forestry reform at the 29th January post-CG meeting.

Everbright security staff refused to read Global Witness' permission letter from the government, would not take Global Witness investigators to the factory manager, and refused to contact the company's head office; they also removed their identity badges. The permission letter was subsequently read to the security staff but had no effect.

After six hours DFW staff arrived and the manager consented to a cursory inspection, which revealed significant quantities of illegal logs. At 9.00pm the factory manager asked Global Witness staff to leave, which they did. DFW and Global Witness were denied further access to the factory until they obtained a court order on the 19th January. All the previously unmarked logs had either been processed or illegally hammer stamped.

"It is ironic that a legitimate inspection could result in a prison sentence for the forestry sector monitors, but Everbright's illegal logging and massive fraud remains unpunished." said Buckrell.