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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

1 December 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Cambodia this afternoon, during which fifty-three Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

Presenting the national report of Cambodia was SAN SUON, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who said Cambodia fully shared the view that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and believed that the value of democracy and human rights should be built and promoted through these principles, taking into account the historical, political, economic, social and cultural reality of the country and its particularity. The assessment of Cambodian human rights should take into account the retrospective of the past situation. At present, Cambodia was known for its records of important accomplishments in many areas through its process of democraticisation. In the context of international cooperation, it was quite evident that the country had been making efforts by engaging itself in the protection and promotion of human rights under the United Nations framework, and was a State Party to major international human rights and humanitarian law instruments. 

On legal and judicial reforms, Cambodia had made significant progress in adopting and ratifying various pieces of legislation, a large number of which were related to the political, economic, social and cultural sectors which had contributed to the realisation of the enjoyment of the basic human rights in relevant fields. Cambodia was making steps forwards in combating corruption. It also placed special emphasis on poverty reduction as a major effort for protecting and promoting human rights, as one of the greatest priorities in the implementation of the Government strategic policy documents. The Government attached high importance to land reform for sustainable socio-economic development. Cambodia placed the cross-cutting issue of gender at the forefront of its political agenda: steps had been taken to tackle violence against women, and priority was being given to the implementation of the Gender Mainstreaming Strategy phase II, aiming at promoting women's capacity building and enhancing their ability to participate in public affairs. 

The delegation of Cambodia fully acknowledged the long-term and multidimensional efforts towards the advancement of human rights in line with the process of reconstruction and development in the country. Despite remarkable progress in key reforms aimed at the alleviating poverty and strengthening good governance, the quality, efficiency and delivery of public service still remained a challenge, Mr. Suon said. Responding to questions posed in advance, he noted that a corruption-free society was critical for good governance, and eradicating corruption was a sustained policy requiring adequate means; that the Government attached great importance to the livelihood and social welfare of indigenous and ethnic communities; that freedom of expression was a core foundation of a democratic society which had been enshrined by the Constitution; and that freedom of expression was a core foundation of the democratic society which had been enshrined by the Constitution, and the Government encouraged the implementation of the freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and the right to demonstrate.

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the positive initiatives to reduce poverty and the National Action Plan in this regard; efforts made by the Government to protect and promote human rights and consolidate peace after the long period of conflict; the efforts made to develop an institutional framework for human rights; the focus on improving legal and judicial reforms; the constructive engagement with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country; Cambodia's commitment to civil and political rights; the on-going activities of the Extraordinary Courts; and the abolishment of the death penalty. 

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, the weakness of basic infrastructure; issues related to illegal land evictions and the need for legal reforms in this area and the need to ensure the impartiality of the judicial system; the need to focus on changing mindsets in the public sector in order to continue to progress for the benefit of the people of Cambodia; what were the main concrete steps in the achievement of the rights of the child, the rights of women, and the main achievements in achieving civil and political rights particularly with regards to urban activities and land use; and whether the Government would build on the participation of civil society in the Universal Periodic Review process as part of the follow-up process.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These
included: that the Government should give more emphasis to the education sector since this was a vital tool for national development; that it intensify its engagement with the international community to share its experience on good governance and land-reform; to pursue equitable and equal distribution and utilisation of land including promoting fair access to land ownership; that the Government make a priority of improving the situation of certain vulnerable groups such as women, children, and the handicapped; to take into consideration the recommendations of the various treaty bodies to intensify the fight against trafficking and address the root causes including with gender-sensitive poverty-reduction strategies; that primary education be made compulsory, and the fight against illiteracy be incorporated into the Government's Strategic Plan; and that Cambodia commit to the rights of all including members of the Opposition, and that it fully support freedom of expression.

Other recommendations included: that Cambodia intensify the fight against trafficking including by addressing the root causes of the problem and strengthen the role of the police and other authorities in combating trafficking; that it redouble its efforts and resources to reach the targets of the Millennium Development Goals on the civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights of the people; that it continue to strengthen civil, political and social development and protect the rights of the most vulnerable, including for education and development and through maintenance of peace, stability, and protection of the environment; that it continue to cooperate with the United Nations and its mechanisms in order to strengthen human rights in the country; to consider issuing a standing invitation to United Nations Special Procedures and mechanisms and to protect specifically the rights of human rights defenders; and that efforts should continue to expedite the creation of an independent human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles and that Cambodia should seek cooperation and technical assistance in ensuring the protection and promotion of the human rights of all Cambodians. 

Responding to the questions and issues raised, ITH RADY, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice of Cambodia, said as a result of implementation of its policies on land reform, progress had been made in this regard, due to the fact that the Government attached high importance to this issue and had policies that aimed at enhancing poverty reduction and ensuring sustained economic development. Cambodia had a land law aimed at guaranteeing land ownership. The Government had established a national authority for the resolution of land disputes. There was also a policy for land use and allocation by indigenous groups. 

On freedom of expression of opinion, the media in Cambodia enjoyed total and inalienable freedom, and all was done to ensure the protection of media and journalists. Civil society was increasingly involved in the process for the protection and promotion of human rights. With regards to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, it was recognised that the important issue of impunity for the Khmer Rouge was being addressed, and the United Nations had recognised the important progress being made in this regard. The sinister culture of impunity was being replaced by a culture of accountability, with concomitant effects on strengthening the rule of law, Mr. Rady said, and Cambodia looked forward to genuine peace, stability, and prosperity.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Suon said Cambodia acknowledged that there were certain areas which required more attention and further action, and that the country had to continue to make further efforts to address the challenges ahead in terms of improvement of human rights. Cambodia would continue to address and implement overall reforms of programmes for the betterment of its people.

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Belgium, Brazil, United Kingdom, Cuba, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, France, Netherlands, Indonesia, Mexico, China, Russian Federation, Philippines, Republic of Korea, India, United States of America, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Angola.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Myanmar, Algeria, Brunei Darussalam, Turkey, Sweden, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Spain, Viet Nam, Belarus, Thailand, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, New Zealand, Israel, Nepal, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Czech Republic, and Republic of the Congo. 

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Cambodia are Cameroon, Bahrain and Nicaragua.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Cambodia can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Cambodia on Thursday 3 December.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Norway.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp 

 

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