Cambodia: UN Human Rights Council urged to address unfolding human rights crisis

Issue: Global Security
Document Type: Open Letter
Date: 2017

The 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, which commenced today, should adopt a resolution which directly addresses the unfolding human rights crisis in Cambodia, said the ICJ today.

The resolution should also urge the Cambodian government to curb its rights violations, and take steps to ensure that the upcoming elections take place in an environment in which everyone is able fully to exercise relevant human rights.

“It is imperative that the Human Rights Council addresses the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Regional Director of Asia and the Pacific.

“The international community should strongly urge Cambodia to curb its human rights violations and adopt a course which fosters an environment that ensures respect for human rights as enshrined in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements,” he added.

On 8 September 2017, the ICJ, together with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), wrote to the Human Rights Council Member and Observer States.

The letter urged them to speak out against the latest abuses clearly during the Human Rights Council session, and for the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution that explicitly condemns the current situation of violations and accordingly.

1. The resolution should request a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur, that would:

  • assess the civil and political rights situation in Cambodia in the pre-election period; and
  • identify concrete actions that the Cambodian government and international community need to take to ensure that the conditions in which th election takes place accord with international human rights standards; and

2. The resolution should request the High Commissioner to provide an oral update to the Council at its 37th session in March 2018, and present his report at the 38th session in June 2018; and

3. The resolution should provide that at its sessions in March and June, the Council will hold an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on relevant issues in Cambodia, including stakeholders such as staff from Cambodia’s OHCHR office, the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, other relevant UN Special Procedures and members of local and international civil society.

The letter sets out a detailed list of examples of human rights violations which form part of a comprehensive campaign of intimidation, violence and misuse of legal mechanisms in the lead-up to next year’s national election.

These include the recent charging of the leader of the opposition, Kem Sokha, with treason in a case that has all the hallmarks of being politically motivated, the expelling of the leading pro-democracy NGO, the National Democratic Institute, and the intimidation and forced closure of several independent media outlets including the Cambodia Daily and Mohanokor Radio.

 The 36th Session of the Human Rights Council, which is being held in Geneva from 11-29 September 2017, will address a number of human rights situations and issues from around the world, including the human rights situation in Cambodia.

At 11am on 19 September 2017, the ICJ, Human Rights Watch and other organizations plan to hold a public side event in Geneva to the Human Rights Council at which the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the country will be discussed.

On 26 September, the UN Special Rapporteur to Cambodia is scheduled to report to the Human Rights Council on the implementation of her mandate and the Council is likely to adopt a resolution to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

The Special Rapporteur will present her report and engage in a formal “interactive dialogue” with States, civil society and Cambodia on the human rights situation in the country (currently scheduled for 26 September).

The UN Secretary General is also due to report on the role and achievements of OHCHR in “assisting the Government and the people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights”. This report will be discussed, together with other country situations, during a General Debate taking place on 27-28 September.


Frederick Rawski (Bangkok), ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director, e: frederick.rawski(a)

Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, t: +66 94 470 1345 ; e:

Cambodia-Joint Civil Society letter-Advocacy-Open letters-2017-ENG (text of letter, in PDF)


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