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Press briefing note on Cambodia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani
Location:  Geneva
Date:  6 September 2016
Subjects:  Cambodia

We are very concerned about the escalating atmosphere of intimidation of opposition politicians, their supporters, civil society, and peaceful demonstrators in Cambodia.

Over the past few days, a strong show of force was conducted by the armed forces at the headquarters of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This, combined with an increase in rhetoric by high-level army officials, who have vowed to defend the ruling party against political opposition, is deeply worrying. We remind the Government of its duty to take measures to ensure the safety of all Cambodians, particularly high profile political opponents.

The party’s Acting President Kem Sokha is due to appear in court on Friday on charges of refusal to appear as a witness in another case – against himself and two members of his party for alleged perjury and prostitution. These are among a host of legal charges faced by Kem Sokha and 29 other members or supporters of the CNRP. Fourteen of them have been convicted and given heavy prison sentences. The weak evidentiary basis of the charges and the accompanying procedural flaws raise serious concerns about the fairness of the proceedings.

We urge the authorities to adhere strictly to international fair trial standards during the criminal proceedings, including ensuring transparency in the administration of justice.

Concerns about public security have also been invoked by the Government to block peaceful protests, and to arrest and charge demonstrators. Just yesterday in Phnom Penh, the authorities set up roadblocks and mobilized troops in an attempt to block a CNRP event to deliver petitions and arrested 10 persons in connections with an unrelated protest. Also yesterday, 10 people were arrested in connection with another protest in Phnom Penh.

We urge the Government, ahead of the local and national elections in 2017 and 2018, to create an environment conducive to the enjoyment of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, which are particularly critical in a pre-electoral context.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org), Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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