Serious and systematic violations of land and housing rights continue in a climate of violence, intimidation and criminalisation of dissent

Paris-Bangkok, 20 September 2012. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) released today a seven-page briefing note entitled “Cambodia: A Mounting Human Rights Crisis”. The briefing note warns that the violations of land and housing rights are “on-going, serious and systematic,” and that the use of judicial and extra-judicial means to harass, intimidate and criminalise activists is increasing.

The briefing note is released ahead of the presentation of the latest report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, Mr Surya Subedi. In his report, which will be presented on 25 September at the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur observed that “[l]and disputes and forced evictions continue unabated in Cambodia, and feature the use of force by the authorities and business enterprises.”

Alarmingly, as of August 2012, the government has granted at least 2,157,744 hectares of economic land concessions (ELCs) to over 200 companies. Most, if not all, of these concessions were granted in violation of provisions of the 2001 Land Law and/or Sub-Decree on ELCs, often bypassing legal safeguards, such as the prevention of concessions in protected areas, environmental and social impact assessment, and free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities. The briefing note also lists more than a dozen cases of intimidation, criminalization, and even killing of human rights defenders, activists and peaceful protesters.

While eviction has become more violent, the Cambodian government’s response to criticisms and peaceful protests features intimidation and judicial harassment of critics based on trumped-up charges ,” said Debbie Stothard, FIDH deputy secretary-general. “ Cambodia should respect its obligations under the many human rights treaties it has ratified and not treat them like waste paper .”

On 26 September, a day after the Special Rapporteur presents his report, donors and development partners will meet with Cambodian government in Phnom Penh for a meeting of the Government-Development Partner Coordination Committee (GDCC). FIDH calls on all development partners to raise their serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation and urge the government to promptly take effective steps to redress past and recent human rights violations. Cambodia’s trade partners should also take proactive measures to ensure that Cambodian exports that benefit from preferential trade agreements are not connected to gross human rights violations. In June, ten Cambodian and European civil society organizations and coalitions sent an open letter to European Union Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, calling upon the EU to investigate serious human rights abuses connected to agricultural goods, including sugar, being exported from Cambodia to the EU under the Everything But Arms initiative.

Cambodia’s human rights record should also be scrutinized as a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The election of five non-permanent members will take place on 18 October at the UN General Assembly. The UN Charter urges the General Assembly to consider candidates’ contribution “to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization,” which includes “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms.”

The Cambodian government seems to be at war with its own people over scarce natural resources, especially land ,” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president. “ A country that is neither at peace with its citizens nor respectful of their rights is in a poor position to contribute to international peace ,” added Ms. Belhassen.

To download the briefing note, please click here.

Press contact:
Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18 or (France)
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