Cambodia: weaponization of the law (UN Statement)

The ICJ today highlighted misuses of the law and legal system in Cambodia, in violation of human rights, and called for action by States and international and regional organisations, as well as the Government of Cambodia.

The statement was delivered during a general debate at the UN Human Rights Council, responding to concerns expressed earlier in the session by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and in the report of the UN Secretary General. It read as follows:

“The Cambodian Government continues to misuse the law to clamp down on the political opposition, on civil society and on ordinary individuals under the guise of the ‘rule of law’.

In November 2017, the Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition political party and banned 118 of its members from political activity after a politicized hearing in which the President of the Court was himself a high-ranking member of the ruling party.

The main opposition leader, Kem Sokha, remains in detention, under investigation for treason.

A recent Constitutional amendment imposes a broad ‘duty’ on individuals and associations to “uphold the national interest”. A new lèse-majesté law is inconsistent with freedom of expression.

Individuals continue to flee the country in fear for having exercised their fundamental freedoms.

In February, Sam Sokha, a UNHCR-recognized refugee, was deported from Thailand to Cambodia after she was convicted in her absence by a Cambodian court, for throwing a shoe at a ruling party billboard.

With national elections scheduled for July 2018, the Government’s trend of weaponizing the law against its people only seems set to harden.

States, international and regional organisations, and other international actors must heighten efforts to address the rule of law and human rights crisis in Cambodia.”

Video of the statement is available here:

Numerous statements expressing similar concerns about the situation in Cambodia followed by other NGOs. Some of them were interrupted by Cambodia on “points of order” and prevented from fully presenting their criticisms despite their alloted time remaining. The ICJ does not consider that the objections raised by Cambodia were valid and that the speakers should have been able to receive the full allotted time to complete their statements. Video of a final statement by the delegation of Cambodia is available below:

The ICJ statement today follows an earlier joint statement delivered yesterday by New Zealand on behalf of a group of 45 states,  which is available to download in PDF format here (NZJointStatementCambodiaHRC37-2018) and to view by video here:



AdvocacyNon-legal submissions