Cambodia: continued misuse of laws to unduly restrict human rights (UN statement)

The ICJ today highlighted the steep decline for human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The statement, made during an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, read as follows:

“Mr President,

The findings reported by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia (A/HRC/39/73; A/HRC/39/73/Add.1), detailing the steep decline for human rights and rule of law in Cambodia prior to and during the 2018 national elections, demonstrate the utter inadequacy of the Human Rights Council’s current focus on technical assistance and capacity-building in Cambodia.

The elections, neither free nor fair, resulted in the ruling party winning all seats in the National Assembly. Post-election, the Government continues to misuse laws to violate rights and harass journalists, human rights defenders, political opposition members and ordinary individuals, as evidenced by the following updates to cases highlighted by the Special Rapporteur.

Unjustified espionage charges hang over two journalists, who spent eight months in detention before being released pending trial.[1] A filmmaker, sentenced to imprisonment for alleged espionage after flying a drone over an opposition rally, was only released by royal pardon after more than a year in jail.

Days after release from two years in jail for conducting a peaceful protest, a land rights activist was handed a six-month suspended sentence for a politically-motivated charge from 2012.[2] Following his release after 18 months in prison for alleged defamation and incitement offences, a political commentator fled Cambodia when fresh politically-motivated charges were mounted against him.[3]

Treason charges remain active against Kem Sokha, leader of the now-dissolved main opposition party, now under house arrest.[4]

A barber and a school principal remain imprisoned for allegedly sharing information online in breach of a lese-majeste law.[5] A woman remains imprisoned for alleged insult and incitement offences for throwing a shoe at a ruling party billboard.[6]

Today, four senior staff from a prominent civil society organization and a National Election Committee official were convicted under politically-motivated charges and handed five-year suspended imprisonment sentences.[7]

Madam Special Rapporteur, what approach should the Council, governments and civil society take to ensure human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia, given that technical assistance and capacity-building alone seem clearly not to be having the necessary effect?

Thank you.”

[1] A/HRC/39/73/Add.1, para 42.

[2] A/HRC/39/73, para 13.

[3] A/HRC/39/73/Add.1, para 35.

[4] A/HRC/39/73/Add.1, paras 18 and 19.

[5] A/HRC/39/73/Add.1, para 46.

[6] A/HRC/39/73/Add.1, para 30.

[7] A/HRC/39/73, para 13; A/HRC/73/Add.1, para 35

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