"Threats to Freedom of Expression and Assembly in Cambodia"

16/02/2006
Report
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While the donors meeting is due to take place in Phnom Penh at the beginning of March, FIDH is issuing a report entitled « Threats to Freedom of Expression and Assembly in Cambodia ».

« A climate of fear is currently prevailing in Cambodia. The authorities use various methods in order to curb the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are essential to the functioning of any sound democracy », denounced Sidiki Kaba, president of FIDH.

Criminal defamation is used against political opponents, journalists, trade unionists, NGOs’ representatives and human rights defenders in order to silence all dissenting voices. Criminal defamation is often combined with immediate pre-trial detention. In addition, there is a lack of reform in the criminal and judicial sphere. « This inertia results from a deliberate political will to maintain the uncertainty as to what laws are applicable in Cambodia. This allows the Executive to maintain its grip on the Judiciary, and to use the latter to silence diverging views », added Sidiki Kaba.

The impunity prevailing in Cambodia, notably regarding the attacks against political opponents, trade unionists and human rights defenders, also contributes to the current climate of fear.

The recent release of people who should never have been arrested in the first place cannot fool the international community : the deterioration of the situation in 2005 could well leave deep scars. Strong signals from the partner countries are indispensable to reverse the trend and bring the authorities to a greater respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. « Action is needed now if one wants to avoid an authoritarian drift », concluded Sidiki Kaba.

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