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UN expert calls for more action to protect human rights in Cambodia

GENEVA (26 September 2017) – The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, has called on the authorities to do more to protect human rights in the country.

In a report to the Human Rights Council she said: “Many of the rights enshrined in the Constitution are not adequately protected, and recommendations made by treaty bodies are still pending, with some reports to the treaty bodies long overdue.”  The report followed Ms. Smith’s third mission to Cambodia from 09 to 16 October 2016 and covers the time period of June 2016 to June 2017.

The political situation, she said, remained tense particularly between the governing Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party. However, she noted that local commune/sangkat elections appeared to have been conducted relatively peacefully on polling day, 4 June 2017.

Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern that in the weeks prior to and indeed subsequent to the elections, Government ministers made public statements using violent rhetoric and threats, and there were changes to the election laws which adversely affected certain political parties. Statements by senior officials in public included threats of military deployment to quell any protests or unrest following the announcement of the results, and issued intimidating messages in calling people to vote for the ruling party.

The Special Rapporteur expressed hope that such statements are not repeated during the run up to the National elections, and that the gains in human rights protection built by Cambodia since 1993 are preserved, not undermined.  In addition, the National Election Committee released a Code of Conduct for the media on the elections, which banned the dissemination of information deemed to be misleading, defaming, insulting, or expressing a journalist’s own views.

She told the Council in Geneva: “The deterioration of the democratic space and freedom of expression in Cambodia is a primary concern, with many NGOs and human rights defenders subject to threats, harassment, arrest, and/or extensive pre-trial detention.”

In her recommendations, Ms. Smith highlighted the need for Cambodia to strengthen protection and promotion of human rights throughout the country.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report to the Human Rights Council on her fourth official mission to Cambodia giving details of her end-of mission statement at a session of the Human Rights Council in 2018.

ENDS

Professor Rhona Smith (United Kingdom) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015. As Special Rapporteur, she is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
Check the Special Rapporteur’s reports on Cambodia.

UN Human Rights, country page: Cambodia

For more information and media requests please contact Ms. Jennifer Kraft (+41 22 928 9830 / jkraft@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Bryan Wilson – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org)

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