Universal Periodic Review of Cambodia - The International Community Asks Cambodia to End Forced Evictions and to Guarantee Freedom of Expression

Press release

Phnom Penh, Geneva, 2 December 2009 - At the occasion of the review of the situation of human rights in Cambodia by the UN Universal Periodic Review, our organisations welcome the fact that a number of UN member States who took part in the interactive dialogue with Cambodia raised their concerns on issues such as forced evictions, lack of independence of the Judiciary, efficiency of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, freedom of expression, restrictions on human rights defenders and the media, and sexual violence against women.

Our organisations deplore that the Cambodian delegation emphasised achievements and difficulties inherent to a developing country in a post-conflict situation, instead of recognising the reality of forced evictions and its severe impact on human rights, education and health of an increasing number of victims, consequence of a heavily unequal development. "The concerns of the international community regarding the gravity of forced evictions in Cambodia are unequivocal. The Cambodian authorities must immediately adopt a moratorium on evictions, until they are able to guarantee that all relocated families are effectively granted housing and appropriate compensation" said Dr. PUNG Chhiv Kek, President of the LICADHO.

On freedom of expression, several delegations deplored that the Penal Code still criminalises defamation and disinformation and that journalists are prosecuted for merely exercising their profession. Our organisations regret that the Cambodian delegation, instead of reacting constructively to the criticism expressed, merely affirmed that freedom of expression was ‘largely enjoyed’ by the media and human rights defenders, while at the same time admitting that the government would not tolerate ‘social disorder’.

A number of delegations expressed their concerns regarding the lack of independence of the Judiciary, which remains too often victim of political interferences, including on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and called on the government to guarantee that judicial personnel is granted appropriate pay and training. A significant number of delegations have suggested that the Cambodian Government should ask for international assistance and cooperation to improve its judicial system. Our organisations recall that an independent judiciary is key to fight corruption and end impunity for human rights violations. "The ECCC have faced persistent allegations of corruption and political interference undermining the independence of their work. We appeal to the Cambodian government to sincerely address these problems" said Mr. Thun Saray, President of the ADHOC.

Many delegations also invited Cambodia to establish as soon as possible an independent and competent National Human Rights Institution, in line with the Paris Principles, and to strengthen its efforts against domestic and sexual violence against women, inter alia in the context of human trafficking.

Our organisations had conveyed main issues of concerns to the delegations of a number of States and express our appreciation to those who have reflected these concerns in their oral intervention.

The report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Cambodia will be adopted at the next regular session of the Human Rights Council in March 2010. "We call on the Cambodian authorities to publicise and disseminate widely this report and to ensure its follow-up. We will be closely monitoring whether Cambodia takes steps to implement the recommendations contained in the report" said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.

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