CAMBODIA: Prominent human rights NGO ordered to close down

Press release

Geneva-Paris, November 27, 2017. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their outrage at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to close down the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR). The order is the latest in a series of moves by the Cambodian Government to silence all critical voices in the country.

On November 26, 2017, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Interior to investigate CCHR, a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network in Cambodia, and demanded the organisation be closed down for allegedly “following foreigners”.

We strongly condemn this new assault on independent civil society, which constitutes a clear reprisal for CCHR’s legitimate and essential human rights work in Cambodia. By muzzling one of the most prominent NGOs in the country, the Government clearly demonstrates it has gone one step further towards the end of rule of law and democracy”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock said.

The current order to close the NGO down appears to be linked to the fact that CCHR was founded in 2002 by Mr. Kem Sokha, the detained leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) - the country’s largest opposition party which was dissolved by the Supreme Court in a widely condemned decision earlier this month over accusations it was engaging in a foreign-backed “colour revolution”.

Shortly after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order, in a press release CCHR reiterated “its absolute non-partisanship and independence from all political parties”, and “its firm commitment to promote human rights in a principled manner”.

Since its foundation, CCHR has been advocating impartially for greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in Cambodia’s Constitution and international human rights treaties that Cambodia has ratified.

The Observatory notes that the attack against CCHR comes at a time of heightened government pressure on independent human rights groups, media outlets, and the main opposition party in Cambodia, amid a severe crisis of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in the country.

The Observatory recalls that the right to freedom of association is a universally recognised right enshrined in numerous international instruments, especially Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a State party, as well as by Article 42 of Cambodia’s Constitution.

The Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop the investigation into CCHR, and cease the harassment of all human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Cambodia, and to guarantee that they can carry out their activities free of any hindrance or reprisals.

The international community must condemn Prime Minister Hun Sen’s latest attack on Cambodia’s civil society and human rights community, which is aimed at wiping out all government critics from the country”, FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos added.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by OMCT and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Read more