Special Rapporteur on Cambodia: renewed mandate with clear focus on cooperation
Friday, 01 October 2010 15:54


On 30 September 2010, the Human Rights Council (the Council) extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia for a period of one year. The resolution, which expresses concern about 'some areas of human rights practices', benefitted from the explicit support of the Government of Cambodia and was adopted by consensus. It only partially reflects the issues raised in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, Mr Surya Prasad Subedi, held on 28 September. Notably, the text provides no recognition to human rights defenders and their work. It also contains no reference to the long-standing impunity for human rights violations, forced evictions, and the right to freedom of association. During the interactive dialogue, only a few States explicitly supported the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur (Japan, Canada and Switzerland), and the Philippines regretted that the draft resolution still expressed concern at the human rights situation, despite progress and good cooperation by the Government with the Special Rapporteur.


The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia was overwhelmingly positive. Many South East Asian States commended the Government of Cambodia for its efforts and called for increased technical assistance to be provided by the international community. They also welcomed the Special Rapporteur's constructive approach when working with the Government of Cambodia. Most of these States did not raise critical points. Only EU member States, Japan, Australia, Canada and the US touched on some of the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur including the weak judiciary, land rights, freedom of expression, and a need for better Government cooperation with national and international civil society.


This positive image of the human rights situation in Cambodia stood in stark contrast with the views of NGOs. While welcoming the cooperation by the Government, Amnesty International, Forum Asia and Human Rights Watch all deplored the use of defamation charges to silence political opposition leaders. In response, the Special Rapporteur said he was also concerned about the sentencing of members of parliament, but that he needed to first study the judgement in detail before making further comments.


In his presentation, Mr Subedi said that during his two missions to the country he had enjoyed a good level of cooperation from the Government. Cambodia had made noteworthy progress in protecting and promoting human rights, including enacting some major laws in the recent past. However, despite these positive results, the Special Rapporteur acknowledged that Cambodia remained a complex country, as democracy had not yet fully taken root in society. The major area of concerns, as indicated by Mr Subedi, related to access to land and housing rights, freedom of expression, and the numerous challenges faced by the judiciary. A large part of the statement of the Special Rapporteur focused on civil society and he urged the Government to 'become more tolerant towards the internal and international stakeholders in moving the country forward (...) on human rights issues'.

A number of countries appreciated the significant progress and achievements made by Cambodia in promoting judicial and legal reforms aiming at fostering good governance (Laos, Nepal, China, Indonesia, Sweden, Thailand), and in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (Viet Nam, Singapore). States noted that the acceptance by Cambodia of all 91 recommendations made during the universal periodic review (UPR) was a sign of the willingness of the Government to improve the human rights situation for its citizens (Algeria, China, Canada, the UK, Thailand, Brazil, Philippines, the EU, Japan and Switzerland). In his responses, the Special Rapporteur said he was ready to help the Government to implement the UPR recommendations as quickly as possible.


Several countries (Brazil, China, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Algeria) called on the international community to provide more technical assistance and capacity building. China and Myanmar hoped that the technical assistance provided to Cambodia would respect its sovereignty and avoid interference with its internal affairs, while Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia encouraged Cambodia to continue strengthening its ties with its partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


Other than recognising progress, some States pointed out some areas of concern. The continued use of laws criminalising defamation and 'disinformation' was condemned by many States. In his responses, the Special Rapporteur said that the Government had showed openness to his suggestions on how to abolish criminalisation of defamation and disinformation. He added that the Government and the judiciary should be made aware of trends in the development of international law and jurisprudence, and that the new penal code should be brought into line with international law.


Other areas of concern included ongoing forced displacements and evictions, land disputes affecting the most vulnerable people in society, such as indigenous communities), lack of independence of the judiciary, and the absence of meaningful dialogue between the Government of Cambodia and civil society (Australia, the EU, Japan, Algeria, Sweden, Ireland, Canada, the US and Switzerland).

Last Updated on Friday, 01 October 2010 16:23
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