Joint Statement to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia

Press release

Joint Statement of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, on the occasion of the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, September 28, 2011

Thank you Madam President.

FIDH and OMCT, in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, take note of the report by the Special Rapporteur and wish to express their deep concerns at the increased restrictions on the enjoyment of freedoms of expression, assembly and association in the country. Furthermore, we share the concern of the Rapporteur that “what prevails in Cambodia in a number of areas is rule by law rather than rule of law”, a notion perfectly illustrated by the proposed Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO).

FIDH and OMCT consider that the draft law is fundamentally flawed and unnecessary in light of the 2007 Civil Code, which will enter into force at the end of November. The Civil Code and its associated Law on Implementation already provide a detailed legal framework for the registration and regulation of non-government entities.

The latest draft of the LANGO still entails a mandatory, burdensome and complex registration process. If passed, this law will forbid any organizations from operating unless their registration has been approved by the government. Furthermore, it includes no clear guidelines on requirements for approval, denial of registration or suspension. As a consequence, the draft law is highly vulnerable to arbitrary decision-making. This risk is heightened by the inability of the judiciary to ensure its independence from the executive, as observed by the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia in his previous report.

In the past two months, the Government of Cambodia has taken actions that are indicative of its intent in passing this law. We refer here, among other things, to the arbitrary suspension of local NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and to formal warnings issued from state officials to three other rights groups: Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC), Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) and NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF). The extralegal suspension and multiple warnings were related to the organizations’ work studying the impact of government-sponsored development projects. FIDH and OMCT strongly recommend the Special Rapporteur to urge the Government of Cambodia to end efforts to promulgate the planned LANGO.

We strongly encourage the Special Rapporteur, both individually and together with other relevant mandate holders, to rigorously monitor and publicly assess progress made by the Government of Cambodia in implementing the recommendations issued by treaty bodies, special procedures and the Universal Periodic Review.

Thank you Madam President.

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