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Press briefing notes on Cambodia elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Libya attacks

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 17 August 2018

1. Cambodia elections 

We are concerned about the human rights environment around the elections that were recently held in Cambodia without the dissolved main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This left a significant proportion of the population without chosen representation, causing concern for their rights to political participation. People were reportedly intimidated or paid to vote, and civil society organizations faced harassment in the run up to the election. Seventeen popular websites were blocked around election day. There were further restrictions placed on the freedom of expression of individual voters and political opponents who called for a boycott or announced their intention to abstain from voting in the election, including through threats, fines and legal action. We urge the Government to refrain from taking legal action in such cases. Under human rights law, the right to freedom of expression protects calls for a boycott in a non-compulsory election.

Now that the official results of the national elections have been announced on Wednesday, we call on the Government to create an environment for open and inclusive political debate that allows all voices in Cambodia to be heard. 

We urge the Government to release political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and ordinary citizens who have been detained for exercising their human rights, in particular their right to freedom of expression. We also call on the Government to lift the ban against opponents taking part in political activity, and protect and expand space for civil society.  Respect for human rights and a vibrant civil society that has the space to debate even complex and controversial issues are essential ingredients if the conflict of the past is to be avoided, and if development is to be peaceful and sustainable.

2. Bosnia and Herzegovina

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemns the decision of the Republika Srpska National Assembly in Bosnia and Herzegovina to revoke its endorsement of the 2004 Srebrenica Commission Report. The High Commissioner warns that the revocation will only serve to feed into the divisive, nationalistic rhetoric ahead of the general elections in October, and will disrupt any attempts to work towards reconciliation among communities.

The 2004 Srebrenica Commission Report established that from 10 to 19 July 1995, between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosniaks went missing in the area of Srebrenica. It also found that more than 1,000 Bosniaks were killed during this period. Two international courts have determined that this massacre of Bosnian Muslims constituted genocide.

The then-President of the Republika Srpska endorsed the report when it was published in 2004, but this endorsement was revoked on Tuesday this week.

The High Commissioner fears that tensions, divisions and mistrust already perpetuated by some public and political officials and media organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be aggravated by this decision – which appears to be designed for political gain. He calls on the Republika Srpska to revisit the decision, and on political leaders across the spectrum to work towards building bridges among communities rather than stoking conflict.

3. Libya attacks

We call on the Libyan Government of National Accord, the GNA, to take all necessary measures to protect Tawerghan internally displaced persons from further displacement, torture and other human rights violations following last week’s forced eviction of some 1,900 people from an IDP camp in Tripoli.

The Tariq Al Matar camp, which hosted some 370 families who had fled fighting in the town of Tawergha in 2011, was raided three times last week by an armed group which is allied to the GNA. 

Camp residents were ordered to leave and homes were demolished, with IDPs scrambling to grab a few possessions or even fleeing with nothing. We understand that during these raids at least 87 IDPs were detained by the armed group and taken to unknown locations. The majority were subsequently released – with some reportedly giving accounts of being tortured and ill-treated. Reports indicated that 19 people are still held by the armed group.

We echo the concerns voiced by the UN refugee Agency, UNHCR, about the safety of thousands of Tawerghan IDPs sheltering in other camps in Tripoli, including in areas under the control of the armed group.

We remind the GNA that Libya is obliged to prevent displacement, protect and assist displaced persons, and identify durable solutions. We call on the authorities to provide shelter and protection to the evicted IDPs. The armed group should immediately release those who are detained. We call on all detaining authorities to fully ensure the rights of all detainees to their physical and psychological integrity, and to due process. Last week’s forced evictions and related allegations of human rights violations must be the object of an independent, impartial, prompt and thorough investigation and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. 

The Tawerghan community have already endured unimaginable suffering during their seven years of displacement. This latest attack on them demonstrates the urgent need for the GNA to ensure their safe, dignified and voluntary return to their homes and the rehabilitation of their town of origin without further delay. 


For more information and media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org or Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org

2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.

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