Joint oral statement of the FIDH and the Forum Asia on Cambodia, at the 9th session of the Human Rights Council

Press release

Oral statement
Ninth session
Item 3 : RRI SRSG Cambodia

Geneva, 10 September 2008

Mister President,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), its members1 in Cambodia, the Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) and the Cambodian Human Rights & Development Association (ADHOC), and Forum Asia support the renewal of the mandate of the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia. We wish to draw the Council’s attention to the compelling reasons why this mandate is not only justified but still crucial.

The mandate ensures that the international community is informed of the human rights situation, assists the Government in enhancing the independence of the judiciary, in establishing an independent Human Rights Commission and in conveying support and protection to local human rights activists. There is a need for continued engagement with Cambodia.

The fear of a return to a one-party state still exists. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won last elections with an overwhelming majority, in a context which election observers deemed below international standards for democracy. The CPP has a strong hand on parliament and other institutions which should provide accountability are also tethered to the CPP.

In the past 15 years, several journalists have been murdered, and none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. It remains the destructive facet of the human rights problem in Cambodia with numerous serious crimes going unpunished.

There is an epidemic of land-grabbing. Rich and powerful individuals steal the land of the poor while politically well-connected companies obtain huge swathes of the countryside. Some 20% of rural Cambodians are landless, an estimated 30,000 urban Cambodians have been evicted in the past five years.

Victims cannot rely on the corrupt and politicised courts to protect them. The judiciary ignores or misinterprets the law in order to ‘legalize’ the stealing of land, to punish the poor who resist, to silence human rights defenders and government critics.

The government fails to meet its human rights obligations, ignoring the international conventions it has signed as well as the country’s own Constitution and domestic laws. The authorities promote a development policy in clear violation of the Paris Peace Accord principles.

The democratic space for human rights defenders and civil society grows smaller and smaller. The current situation demands more engagement, not disengagement.

By renewing the mandate of the Secretary General’s Special Representative, this Council can support and protect the work of Cambodian rights defenders.

FIDH, LICADHO, ADHOC and Forum Asia request the Council to renew the mandate in a resolution calling the authorities of Cambodia to :

implement the previous recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia and engage in a constructive dialogue with him, thereby respecting its international human rights commitments, regarding in particular its co-operation with the UN special procedures ;

put an end to impunity for acts of repression against community leaders, journalists, human rights defenders and trade unionists ;

engage necessary reforms in the justice sector as well as relevant anti-corruption policies ;

establish a moratorium on involuntary evictions until the adoption and the proper and vigorous implementation of a strict legislative framework.

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