Donors should hold the Cambodian Government accountable for forced evictions !

Press release

On 4 March 2008, the Cambodian government and the community of donors for Cambodia will meet in order to discuss several issues of common concern, including land issues. The Government-Donor Coordination Committee is a mechanism established in 2004 to strengthen Government-Donor coordination to improve aid effectiveness.

"As stressed on the occasion of my recent visit in Cambodia, I call upon international donors to put pressure on Cambodian authorities to address the crucial issue of forced evictions as a priority. The message from the international community to the Cambodian authorities must be clear", said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

The Cambodian authorities should declare an immediate moratorium on forced evictions until an adequate legal framework is enforced, in accordance with Cambodia’s national laws and international human rights obligations. Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) must be suspended until a review to determine whether they fully comply with the Land Law and the Sub-decree on ELCs. Particular attention must be paid to the impact of ELCs on indigenous communities, who are entitled to collective ownership of traditional land under the land law.

"I had the occasion to visit one eviction site in Phnom Penh and one relocation site in Andong: The current conditions of resettlement of affected communities are disastrous, with no access to clean water, sanitation, health and education services", added Ms. Belhassen.. The victims of forced evictions must be given land titles for plots at relocation sites and a fair financial compensation in order to rebuild their houses.

The use of armed forces to forcibly evict civilians should be expressly prohibited. In addition, all forms of repression against lawyers and activists defending the rights of urban and rural evictees should end. Cambodian courts should promptly review all criminal cases against community representatives and community members connected with land disputes and forced evictions.

« Those important issues must absolutely be addressed at the forthcoming meeting: the strong and united position of donors can make a difference for the rights of tens of thousands of Cambodians. This opportunity cannot be missed », concluded FIDH President.

In addition, the donors should express publicly their support to the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Representative on human rights in Cambodia and insist to the importance of an in-depth co-operation of the authorities with the mandate holder.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) conducted a political mission to Cambodia from 13 to 21 February 2008, to present the report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), outcome of a fact -finding mission organised with the co-operation of the two FIDH leagues in Cambodia, ADHOC and LICADHO. The report entitled "Defending economic and social rights in Cambodia : a high risk activity" emphasizes the precarious situation of citizens affected by forced evictions as well as of local activists and community leaders persecuted by the authorities because of their activities in defending social and economic rights.

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